Early childhood education is being held up as a cure-all for the societal problems that started mushrooming about 50 years ago. Last night in his State of the Union Address, President Obama called for universal preschool in every state in America.

Today, our Mississippi House of Representatives is poised to assist Obama in implementing his goals by passing two bills (HB 781 and HB 780) that would use state tax dollars to fund pre-kindergarten programs. The state Senate has already passed such a bill (SB 2395).

Promoters of “pre-K” ultimately want to make the program universal and mandatory. While the proposed bills do not take this step, they offer a hefty financial incentive for private childcare centers to implement a state-approved curriculum and hire teachers in place of caregivers.

Two bills in the House, HB 781 and HB 780, would fund pre-K. HB 781 would send tax dollars to the operator of a pre-kindergarten (whether a public school or a private business). The bill also rewards select providers and consultants (“lead partners”) while penalizing smaller providers ineligible to participate in state “collaboratives.” For this reason, many smaller private providers oppose HB 781 – because it will put them out of business. HB 780 would send tax dollars to certain parents in the form of a voucher. Today and tomorrow are the only days these bills can be voted on, so your immediate calls are vital.

Placing children in a program of early childhood education does long-term damage that outweighs the novelty of seeing a 4-year-old read or name all the colors in the Crayon box. Being under pressure to learn at the early ages of 4 and 5 can turn children off to schooling later on. It can undermine the disposition to learn at older ages when children are ready to attend to formal instruction and apply themselves to study academics.

If pre-K is doing more than baby-sitting, then it is doing worse than baby-sitting. Preschoolers need to be given every opportunity to stay home with – and learn from – mom and dad. Parents who choose pre-K for their children should do so freely and be free to select any provider they prefer. But parents who choose otherwise shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the decisions of other families.

MIssissippi Tea Party
2/13/13