You have to admire vested interests in the education status quo: they have a flair for reinvention that rivals Madonna's, and to the same end: more money. WestEd's June 23 report claiming that preschool can solve the Social Security crisis, however, is even harder to swallow than the pop star's latest turn as a children's book author.
Some historical perspective: After Sputnik, the establishment donned its 007 tuxedo and sold more spending as the key to Cold War victory with the National Defense Education Act for math and science instruction. In the 1960s they donned their War on Poverty uniform, selling the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Title 1) as a long-term solution to poverty.
What has been the result? The U.S. scored 19 out of 21 nations in the latest 12th grade international math and science test score comparison. In 2001, secretary of education Rod Paige announced, "After spending $125 billion of Title I money over 25 years, we have virtually nothing to show for it."
Now comes the WestEd report claiming preschool can fix Social Security. At an annual cost of $12,000 per child, the report breathlessly asserts, "As adults, they would enter the workforce at higher skill levels, earning larger salaries and paying higher taxes into the system."
To say nothing of forcing our grandchildren to inherit our debts, preschoolers won't solve the Social Security problem. Research demonstrates that gains from preschool fade in the early elementary years: there is no discernable long-term gain.
Madonna may be right about what kind of world we are living in, but the special interests are going to need better material to justify this spending spree.
- Education News: "Can Today's Preschoolers Save Tomorrow's Social Security?"
-WestEd report: Early Childhood Investment Yields Big Payoff
-Goldwater Institute study: Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten: Essential Information for Parents, Taxpayers and Policymakers