The Edmond Sun

Opinion

February 13, 2013

Oklahomans deserve preschool choices

EDMOND — “As more and more states embrace school choice,” I wrote in 2007, “it’s reasonable to believe Oklahoma will too.” Indeed, Oklahoma in 2010 enacted school choice for special-needs children, and in 2011 a tax credit for donations that help children afford private schools.

And coming off a successful National School Choice Week (the week of Jan. 27, which Gov. Mary Fallin also proclaimed to be School Choice Week in Oklahoma), I believe that educational freedom will continue to spread.

Parents should have the ability to choose for their children traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, homeschooling or even a customized menu of options.

Here’s one idea I’m particularly fond of: Preschool choice.

Oklahoma is “the leader in early child care education,” The Oklahoman reported in its “Education & careers” supplement on April 29. In one sense, that’s true. Some Oklahoma public schools proudly offer “extended day care,” for example. Incredibly, some will even enroll your 6-week-old “student” in an “education” program whose “curriculum” encourages “language enrichment” and “problem solving.”

In August 2011, the respected survey firm SoonerPoll asked Oklahoma voters: “In two important ways, Oklahoma is a national leader in early childhood education. First, among all the states Oklahoma has the highest percentage of 4-year-olds in state-funded preschool programs. Secondly, Oklahoma is one of the few states that offer a tax break for stay-at-home parents. Assuming there is a limited amount of money, which of the following do you think should take precedence: Increasing the amount of money spent on preschool programs for 4-year-olds, or expanding the tax break for parents who stay at home with their 4-year-olds?”

Oklahoma parents prefer the tax break by a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent. Among women, it’s 51 percent to 35 percent. Among women with household income under $35,000, it’s 55 percent to 29 percent.

Parents want choices.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama lauded Oklahoma’s commitment to state-funded preschool programs. But in their book “Disrupting Class,” Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen and his co-authors concluded that universal pre-K is “an ineffective mechanism for addressing the challenge of better preparing children for school.”

Dr. Christensen is not the only scholar unwilling to conclude that universal pre-K is a good public investment. Preschool expert Russ Whitehurst, the former director of the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education, also finds the evidence unpersuasive. Just last month, Dr. Whitehurst, now a senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, wrote that “advocates of universal pre-K point to research conducted in Tulsa, to support their claim that middle-class children as well as children from low-income at-risk backgrounds can benefit from a pre-K program delivered by the state. … Unfortunately the research design of the Tulsa study is critically flawed when used to draw conclusions about the impact of a state pre-K program.”

Heritage Foundation scholar Lindsey Burke and others have even had the temerity to point out that Oklahoma’s fourth-grade reading scores have actually declined since the state implemented universal government preschool.

Universal preschool is expensive, and not everyone needs it or wants it. In a world of scarce resources that have alternative uses, let’s redirect some of that money to the tax break mentioned above, or to Education Savings Accounts.

An ESA for preschoolers would work like this: If you don’t enroll your 4-year-old in the local public school, the state portion ($3,461) of your child’s per-pupil expenditure would be deposited into an ESA at your bank. You could use that money for private-school tuition, curricular materials or other educational expenses. If you don’t spend it all, save the rest for college.

Parents get some much-needed flexibility, and public schools get less-crowded classrooms and higher expenditures per pupil (given that some local and federal dollars would remain in public schools).

Today one in five Arizona students is eligible for an ESA. Here’s hoping the idea comes to Oklahoma.

 

BRANDON DUTCHER, an Edmond resident, is vice president for policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Loosening constraints on campaign donations and spending doesn’t destroy democracy

    Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics.
    In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy.
    This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons.

    April 23, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 23, 2014

  • Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama’s bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids — can at last be concluded.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Chicago Tribune: If Walgreen Co. moves its HQ to Europe, blame Washington’s tax failure

    The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in downstate Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill.
    Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.
    A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.
    If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

    April 21, 2014

  • Sulphur a future major tourist destination?

    Greta Garbo says, “I want to be alone,” in the 1932 film “Grand Hotel.” That MGM film starred Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and a young actress from Lawton named Joan Crawford. It told the stories of several different people who were staying at an exclusive hotel of that name in Berlin Germany.
    It was critically well received and it inspired more recent films such as “Gosford Park” and television shows such as “Downton Abbey” in that it detailed the relationship between powerful and wealthy people and those who served them. The film opened amidst much fanfare and it received the Oscar for best picture in the year of its release.

    April 21, 2014

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results