Per below, a case in point. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie want more school choice in his state–vouchers and charters. He also hasn’t been the biggest fan of the state’s Abbott Preschool program, which is widely regarded as the nation’s highest-quality state pre-k program and has produced strong evidence that it improves children’s learning through at least the end of second grade. During his gubernatorial campaign, Christie dismissed preschool as “baby-sitting,” and led some to think he’d consider putting it on the chopping block in dealing with the state’s budget crisis. Christie seems to have come around a bit there, but he’s also indicated he won’t carry out his predecessor’s plans to expand preschool statewide. If Christie’s really serious about advancing choice in his state, though, I think he’s making a mistake in not more fully embracing Abbott Preschool as part of his case for school choice. If I were Christie, I’d say something along these lines: (Note: I, Sara, do not actually agree with all these things or think they accurately characterize the situation in New Jersey.)
New Jersey doesn’t have a lot to be proud of when it comes to education. We spend more than any state in the country on our schools, but we’re not getting what we should for it. Many of our urban districts are a chronic and complete mess, squandering our children’s potential. Most of what comes out of Trenton on education does more harm than good. But there’s one thing we do have to be proud of: Our Abbott Preschool programs. Abbott Preschool is the best–possibly the only–good thing to come out of Trenton on education. Research shows that Abbott Preschool programs consistently deliver very high-quality education to our poorest kids–better than any other such program in the country–and that kids who attend these programs learn more for years afterward than those who don’t.
Why is Abbott Preschool such a contrast to our record on K-12 education in Trenton and in our big urban districts? In large part because it bypassed the chronic dysfunction of our urban districts to use outside, community-based providers to deliver high-quality preschool–Organizations like [example high-quality community-based provider]. Abbott Preschool built on the richness and resources that exist in our communities, outside our troubled school districts, to build a new system of quality educational options for our most disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds. I want to extend this same model upward into the K-12 system, by opening the doors to allow a wider array of organizations in our communities–as well as high-quality charter school networks and other education providers from across the country–to educate our children. I want to give children in our most troubled urban districts options to escape from them. The Abbott Preschool program shows that diverse delivery–not school district monopolies on educational delivery–is the best way to get results for our kids.
–by Sara Mead