Let Parents Take the Lead on Pre-K

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my latest, which compares the government push to get more and more kids into pre-K with the recent (additional) dismal research findings on pre-K’s effects:

The study followed students through sixth grade and found negative outcomes lasting all the way through the study period. Students who attended pre-K had lower test scores than those who did not. A negative pre-K effect was also found for disciplinary infractions, attendance, and receipt of special education services.

Nor is this the first study to question the benefits of pre-K, at least for most students. A few years ago I published an OCPA report going over the issues in pre-K, including the results of decades of empirical research on its effects.

But the finding that pre-K is neutral or negative on the whole doesn’t mean pre-K is bad for every child; it just means the negative effect on some children outweighs the positive effect on others. Instead of trying to get all kids or no kids into pre-K, we might try getting the right kids in:

In fact, I serve on the board of a private school that offers a pre-K program. We don’t do that because we enjoy hurting kids. We do it because in the community where we serve, there are kids who will benefit from this program. It doesn’t matter how many other kids there are who wouldn’t benefit from it, as long as there are at least enough who would benefit to justify offering a pre-K classroom.

But we aren’t using the power of the state to shove families into pre-K indiscriminately. We know our community, and we work with parents to identify the students who would benefit from our program. No child walks into our doors unless both our staff and the parents agree that the child will benefit from being there—and nobody is applying political pressure to that decision.

Parents should be empowered with school choice, and then the state should back off and let them decide.

Let me know what you think!

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