Sunday, June 18, 2006

Would You Buy a Used Preschool Program From This Man?

Bill Halter has come out with his "plan" for "Universal Pre-K". He makes outrageous boasts ("our state will have fewer welfare enrollees, less crime and teen pregnancy and a more educated and skilled workforce which will help attract new and better-paying jobs to our state") about what "the Halter Plan" will do, and all for the low, low price of $50 million a year.

If Bill Halter ever gets any real power (and I am not sure I count "Lt. Governor" as "real power") then I predict he will do for the taxpayers of this state what he did for the investors of the companies that he directed- lose them big money.

The plan simply cannot do what he says it can, and will not cost what he says that it will cost. The current cost for our pre-school programs is over $40 million a year and they say they need seventy. Less than half those eligible in the current program have it available to them, only some of those are taking it, and Halter wants to make it available to ALL at a sliding tuition scale depending on parent's income. In summary, he is pulling that "$50 million" figure out of thin air or someplace really disgusting. This gigantic new program will cost much more than he claims, except that hopefully we will never know because Jim Holt will save us from Halter's Big Plans for Your Money.

Even if it were available for FREE, it is still not a good idea for most children. Research indicates that children from good loving homes do better when they spend their third and fouth year at home rather than in a day care. Of course if a child has a rotten home environment they would be better off almost anywhere else, but that is an argument for foster care or parental training, not constructing a huge new government institution to raise three year olds. The answer for three and four year old children is better families, not have a government program to try to replace the familiy. It must be hard for a socialist to admit that there are limits to what government can do- except when it comes to spending money!

I know some parents have to use day care, and that is their choice. But what this plan would do is have the government take sides. It would take money out of the pockets of people who choose to raise their children at home (the best option for children) in order to subsidize those who choose to put their 3 and 4 year old children in a government institution. Eventually it will cost everyone more though, as government programs find a way to spend your dollars more freely than you yourself would. Arkansans may use the government's "free" daycare for a year or two, but they will be paying for it for the rest of their lives.

Notice I don't call their daycare programs by the PC euphemism "early childhood education". That is male bovine fecal matter. Just the thought of it makes me want to do things to liberals that are forbidden by our Constitution's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment". Three and four year old children learn by PLAYING. They learn during "moments of opportunity" rather than planned instruction. I think subjecting them to "quality preschool" that starts pounding "skill sets" at them at three is itself cruel and unusual punishment.

The "studies" that Halter cites to support his grandiose claims about what government can do for small children are flawed. The best studies show that any temporary gain the children make in learning "skill sets" in preschool goes away in a few years. The Abecedarian Project blew it from the start- randomization failed and all it showed was that a group of kids with a higher IQ before the start of the project will do better in school throughout the project. The test group had a higher IQ than the control group from the start.

The Perry Preschool Project did not even attempt to randomize their test from their control group, and their study has never been properly peer-reviewed. As parents were found to be less committed to the home training, they were switched from the test group to the control group! Since home training was a critical part of the program, it may be that the PARENT TRAINING at home rather than the day care aspect of the program was responsible for any positive results claimed by the program. Those results were meager in school- the rise in test scores disapeered after a few years just like in all the other programs. Later in life, the GIRLS got pregnant less and stayed out of jail more. There was no statistically significant improvement for the boys in the study.

As for Entergy's study that we "save" seven dollars for every one we spend on Pre-K, Entergy should stick with cheating Arkansans in their traditional manner, like overcharging us for blunders they made in their Louisiana operations. They should also stick to buying their politicians in the old fashioned way (like the way they hired lobby guys to funnel money to our Attorney General Bebee even though he is the one tasked with protecting us from unneeded rate hikes by Entergy). It is no wonder they are asking for another rate hike. They need to charge you more in order to fund more "studies" that say socialism is good! That is a sure way to endear them to politicians so that those fellows will let them up your rates!

As for Bill Halter, he should spend the next 27 years like he spent the last 27- outside of Arkansas. If he has to lose people big money in order to enrich himself, I would prefer it be the way he has done it in the past- by cheating investors with Enron-style business practices. Then at least he is losing the money of people gullible enough to choose to buy stock in the companies that he directs instead of the money of the taxpayers of this state whose only error was to be outvoted by idiots, should they elect Mr. Halter Lt. Governor.

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