Pre-K Everywhere You Look!

In today’s column, Robert Novak takes Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey to task over fiscal discipline. Leave aside the absurd notion that this crop of Republicans have proven themselves good stewards of the federal treasury, he in part criticizes Casey for championing a universal pre-K proposal that would cost an estimated $8 billion annually. Casey’s plan is based on the proposal put forward by Sara Mead, and it’s a good idea. One of the real unfortunate side-effects of the fiscal policies of the last six years is that big investments in important initiatives, for instance pre-K, are so difficult. I certainly don’t buy into the “no accountability until utopia” approach to ed policy, but there is no doubt that a more seamless start for kids is a vital complement to K-12 reform. I’m also not opposed to cutting and investing, that can be a true progressive approach to government spending. Reckless fiscal policies, however, create bad choices.

Also, New America has released a policy brief on pre-K (pdf). Much of it is related to this earlier paper they released in January (pdf), that Diane Ravitch and I reviewed at a NAF event. While it makes a good case for expanding access to pre-K education, like the January paper the new brief also calls for using new Title I money for pre-K. I don’t care for that idea either in terms of the substance or the politics. While I’m not at all against redirecting money from some existing programs toward pre-K, there is no compelling reason to pit these two important programs against one another. There is a modest early-ed component to Title I now, but in terms of a lever for forcing action on low-performing schools, and a program to provide services to low-income kids, Title I is the best game in town and I don’t get the logic of moving in the direction NAF wants to here. AFTie One-L doesn’t like it either.

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