Universal Preschool: Expensive and Ineffective

Edward Stringham, Real Clear Policy, January 17, 2014

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is promising bold change, but the centerpiece of his education-reform package–universal, government-run preschool–is a looming financial and bureaucratic nightmare. Adding universal preschool to government K-12 schooling may sound like a harmless proposal, but it would strain New York City’s education budget while delivering few of the new mayor’s promised results.

De Blasio plans to raise taxes by more than $500 million per year to pay for this and other programs. {snip}

Many of the scholarly articles in support of universal government preschool ignore the costs of creating another municipal bureaucracy–including teacher salaries and benefits, administrative and regulatory costs, and the negative economic effects of added taxes. {snip}

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And the benefits of universal pre-K touted by proponents are not at all sure to materialize. Past studies of programs like Head Start have found that participation in preschool has no effect on high-school completion, college attendance, or young-adult earnings–all drivers of the financial benefits de Blasio and others promise–and a very limited effect on crime rates. An analysis by the left-leaning Brookings Institution found that universal-preschool programs in Georgia and Oklahoma had only small effects on participants’ later academic achievement. Researchers at Vanderbilt University conducted an in-depth study of children who attended Tennessee’s government-administered preschools, and found that by first grade, any benefits provided by the preschools had vanished entirely. In fact, the preschools had an insignificant to slightly negative effect on both academic and social/emotional skills.

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