Obama's latest whopper: universal preschool


President Barack Obama feeds America more whoppers than Burger King.

A “balanced approach” to deficit reduction. An “all of the above” energy policy. “My door is open.” The State of the Union address was a fibtastic display of dishonesty.

For a real load of cow patties, though, it was hard to beat Obama’s call for universal preschool “for every single child in America.”

“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime,” the president promised. “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children — like Georgia or Oklahoma — studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

Last week, the website FactCheck.org — a predictably reliable bludgeon for the left — pretty much eviscerated Obama’s entire preschool pitch, which he has since repeated on the stump.

“In both cases (Georgia and Oklahoma), Obama is extrapolating the results of small, expensive programs and applying them to universal state programs,” Robert Farley of FactCheck.org wrote. “Academics who have studied preschool programs say it is too soon to know the long-term results of statewide universal programs, but evidence suggests Obama’s plan to include all 4-year-old kids — including those from middle-income families — would not see nearly as dramatic results. ...”

“It also remains to be seen exactly how universal Obama’s proposal will end up being.”

Although the president continues to tout a program for all children, regardless of income, details released by his administration show he’d fully subsidize preschool only for low- and moderate-income families, with limited offerings for the middle-class, according to Farley’s analysis. It would work like Medicaid, with Washington dangling money that states would be required to match. The more states spend, the more money Washington would return to states.

In Nevada, state Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, has proposed expanding full-day kindergarten to all Nevadans, regardless of income, while offering state-funded pre-kindergarten in at-risk schools. Denis has offered no way to pay for the resulting enrollment growth or the classroom space needed to house it. The Clark County School District, like most education systems around the country, doesn’t have the building capacity to accommodate limited preschool, let alone a universal program.

It’s bad enough that Obama and Denis want to embark upon such an expensive course when neither Washington nor Nevada can afford it. What makes it worse? It has already been tried — and it failed miserably.

Head Start, anyone? Since 1965, the federal government has spent some $180 billion on preschool for low-income children — about $8 billion per year today. The program was created to get poor kids better-prepared for kindergarten, with the belief that schooling, meals, health care and parental counseling would lead to long-term achievement gains.

In December, the Department of Health and Human Services released a study — years late — which found that Head Start does nothing to improve children’s academic outcomes or social and emotional skills, doesn’t help their health or home life, and in some cases leads to declines.

The study tracked the development of kids who participated in Head Start from age 3 or 4 through the third grade and compared them against kids who didn’t participate in Head Start. Any gains resulting from Head Start were lost by the first grade. Among 3-year-old Head Start participants, Head Start negatively affected their math skills as they got older.

Billions of dollars, no benefit. Yet Head Start still lives. And the president wants to more or less copy it.

For heaven’s sake, the federal government needs to get out of K-12 education, not sink its talons into kids barely out of diapers. Leave it to states, counties, cities and parents to run their schools.

President Obama knows he isn’t being straight with the public. He’s serving up another handout he can use to demonize GOP opposition. Child care is expensive, and if millions of American families think they can get their kids into school one year earlier, allowing them to return to work or suddenly have financial breathing room, they’ll take it. Even if placing their kids in a government program does them no good.

Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is a Review-Journal editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.