Star Parker: Universal Pre-K — Another Progressive Bad Idea

With Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better initiative hitting a wall in the U.S. Senate, President Joe Biden has suggested that components of the bill be advanced separately.

One of these components is a plan for government-funded universal pre-K schooling.

It would fund school for some 6 million children ages 3 and 4.

Federal funds would be provided for six years, the first three funded 100% by the federal government, with the share provided by states increasing up to 40% by year six.

The total cost estimate generated by the bill’s sponsors is $200 billion.

But like the entire Build Back Better Plan, the cost estimate is far below reality.

Who will believe that the plan will die after six years?

American Enterprise Institute analysts suggest a more realistic price tag should be around $500 billion.

We’re talking here about adding hundreds of billions of dollars of new pre-K education infrastructure, requiring, by some estimates, around 50,000 new teachers, plus classrooms, etc.

It is an indication of either the quality or the honesty of thought going on that Democrats want to spend hundreds of billions at a time when the nation is already deeply in debt for a massive new, basically untested concept, to which, on paper, the federal government is only committed for six years.

What exactly are the merits of the idea?

Research indeed shows benefits from a well-structured pre-K program. But absent are solid conclusions of lasting benefits. Most likely to benefit are low-income, disadvantaged children. But providing pre-K investment and then sending these children off to the broken K-12 public schools in these same neighborhoods is ridiculous.

Let’s turn to Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist James Heckman, a highly regarded expert on the importance of early child development.

When asked about universal pre-K in a recent interview, Heckman’s reply was: “I have never supported universal pre-school. … Public preschool programs can potentially compensate for the home environments of disadvantaged children. No public preschool program can provide the environments and the parental love and care of a functioning family and the lifetime benefits that ensue.”

Heckman observes: “The family is the source of life and growth. Families build values, encourage (or discourage) their children in school and out. Families — far more than schools — create or inhibit life opportunities. … Schools can only partially compensate for the damage done to the children by dysfunctional families.”

But even if we accept Heckman’s observations, we’re still left with big questions.

What is our understanding now of family and what is deemed to be dysfunctional? Woke culture will condemn any defense of traditional values and therefore our traditional idea of family.

Recently Pew Research surveyed displacement of the traditional family with alternative lifestyles, such as cohabitation, increasing number of Americans delaying marriage, single-parent households and same-sex marriage. When Pew pollsters asked whether the growing alternatives to the traditional family are a good or bad thing, in 2010, 32% said it made “no difference.” By 2019, 45% said it made “no difference.”

The one option for 3- and 4-year-olds to receive education in a traditional framework is church schools. But this one option is not available through the Democrat pre-K mega funding program. Democrats are just interested in options that are basically extensions of public schools.

Facilities that are used primarily for “sectarian instruction or religious worship” don’t qualify, per Biden.

This despite government data indicating about one-quarter of parents participating in child care sends their child to a church-related facility.

The bottom line is that, once again, what Democrats really want, this time in the name of child care, is the government-funded progressive takeover of our lives.

The multibillion-dollar Democrat universal pre-K program should meet the same fate as the Build Back Better legislation of which it was a part. It should be stopped.

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Star Parker

Star Parker is one of the names on the short list of national black conservative leaders. She is the founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), a Washington D.C.-based public policy institute that promotes market-based solutions to fight poverty. Star consulted on federal Welfare Reform in the mid-90s and then founded CURE to bring new ideas to policy discussions on how to transition America's poor from government dependency. In 1996, she was a featured speaker at the 1996 Republican National Convention. Before involvement in social activism, she had seven years of first-hand experience in the grip of welfare dependency. After a Christian conversion, she changed her life. Now, Star regularly consults with both federal and state legislators on market-based strategies to fight poverty. In 2017, Star joined the White House Opportunity Initiative task force to share ideas on how to best fix our nation’s most distressed zip codes. In 2018, she was appointed to the U.S. Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission. Star has a bachelor's degree in Marketing and International Business from Woodbury University and has received numerous awards and commendations for her work on public policy issues. In 2016, CPAC honored her with the “Ronald Reagan Foot Soldier of the Year.” In 2017, Star was the recipient of the Groundswell Impact award, and in 2018, Bott Radio Network presented Star with its annual Queen Esther award. To date, Star Parker has spoken on more than 225 college campuses, including Harvard, Berkeley, Emory, Liberty, Franciscan, UCLA and UVA. She has authored several books; is a regular commentator on national television and radio networks including the BBC, EWTN, and FOX News; and Star is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators, reaching 7 million readers weekly.

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