Across the country, governors are rushing to pour more and more tax dollars into state-run preschool programs. Today, all but ten states offer some sort of taxpayer-funded preschool for some three and four year olds — primarily based on need.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, more than $3.3 billion is spent on the nearly 950,000 children who used these programs each year. And last year, 28 states increased government funding by a combined 13%.
Reaching our youngest and most vulnerable children early with the basics of a good education is a good idea. The problem is many states are locking these students into dysfunctional and underperforming public education systems just a few years early.
If governors and legislatures want to expand public preschool, they should be mindful of the mistakes of the past. Instead of ceding more authority and tax dollars to entrenched educational bureaucracies and teachers’ unions, parent empowerment and education choice programs should be considered. And, if parents choose parochial or faith-based schools, so be it.
The real strength of America’s education system is in the diversity of educational opportunities. This diversity has allowed competition, preserved choice, and increased educational experimentation. Any valid proposal to improve educational opportunity for our youngest children will build on both of these strengths.