Hil­lary pro­poses preschool for all in mas­sive fed­eral-state ef­fort

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Amy Fa­gan

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Sen. Hil­lary Clin­ton on May 21 pro­posed that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pro­vide states with up to $10 bil­lion to en­sure all 4-year-olds have prekinder­garten ed­u­ca­tion.

“Ev­ery child — not just chil­dren whose par­ents can af­ford it — should have the same chance to suc­ceed,” said Mrs. Clin­ton, New York Demo­crat. “As pres­i­dent, I will es­tab­lish uni­ver­sal pre-kinder­garten ed­u­ca­tion through a fed­er­al­state part­ner­ship.”

In the first ma­jor ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive of her cam­paign, Mrs. Clin­ton pro­posed a vol­un­tary pro­gram that would start with a $5 bil­lion fed­eral com­mit­ment for in­ter­ested states to cre­ate uni­ver­sal pre-K pro­grams or bol­ster their ex­ist­ing ones, in­clud­ing Head Start. States would match the in­vest­ment dol­lar for dol­lar, and the fed­eral con­tri­bu­tion would in­crease to $10 bil­lion over five years, as state in­vest­ment did.

Mrs. Clin­ton said she’d pay for the hefty price tag by get­ting rid of tax loop­holes and some Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. She said end­ing the Iraq war would free up some money as well, the AP re­ported.

Crit­ics said her pre-K plan would be ma­jor ex­pan­sion of the fed­eral role in ed­u­ca­tion, when preschool pro­grams haven’t truly been proven ef­fec­tive.

“Sen­a­tor Clin­ton is re­ally propos­ing to pres­sure states into im­ple­ment­ing uni­ver­sal preschool. That’s re­ally a re­mark­able new role for fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” said Dan Lips of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

Thirty-eight states had preschool pro­grams in 2006, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Early Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search. The Clin­ton camp stressed their pro­gram would be vol­un­tary, but Mr. Lips said the draw of money would lure states into what would be­come a web of new fed­eral rules.

Among the re­quire­ments of the Clin­ton plan, states would have to pro­vide free preschool to low-in­come and lim­ited-English fam­i­lies, hire teach­ers with bach­e­lor’s de­grees and train­ing in early-child- hood de­vel­op­ment, en­sure low child-to-teacher ra­tios and use ageap­pro­pri­ate cur­ricu­lum, yet to be de­fined.

Ajay Chaudry, di­rec­tor of the Ur­ban In­sti­tute’s Cen­ter on La­bor, Hu­man Ser­vices and Pop­u­la­tion, said Mrs. Clin­ton’s pro­posal ad­dresses a real need and that “it’s pretty clear” there would be longterm ben­e­fits.

“I do think that there’s a need for ad­di­tional re­sources for preschool ed­u­ca­tion,” he said. A fed­eral role in ed­u­ca­tion has long been sup­ported, he added, and Mrs. Clin­ton’s plan “is just ag­ing that down.” He also cited re­search show­ing ben­e­fits of early ed­u­ca­tion.

Darcy Olsen, pres­i­dent of the Gold­wa­ter In­sti­tute, coun­tered that preschool “at best has mixed short­term re­sults,” cit­ing a study that found achieve­ment ben­e­fits for chil­dren who at­tended preschool start to dis­ap­pear by third grade. She called Mrs. Clin­ton’s plan “a black hole” and said the fo­cus should be on im­prov­ing K-12.

Mean­while, lead­ers from the group Strong Amer­i­can Schools com­plained loudly that pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates still aren’t fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing K-12 ed­u­ca­tion. SAS Chair­man Roy Romer, a for­mer Demo­cratic gov­er­nor of Colorado, said it’s fine that pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have be­gun to dis­cuss higher ed­u­ca­tion and pre-K ef­forts, but those sim­ply won’t work with­out “the K12 re­forms that are des­per­ately needed.”

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