In Other Words: Preschool plans oversold, unproven and unrealisticState Sen. Tom Dempster of Sioux Falls continually repeats that no one questions the importance of preschool in a child’s development, stating, “No one can doubt that investments in early education do for a child or the society in which they grow.” (Nov. 27; “In Other Words: State can’t afford not to fund preschool for low-income kids.”)
By: Cindy Flakoll, Concerned Women of America
State Sen. Tom Dempster of Sioux Falls continually repeats that no one questions the importance of preschool in a child’s development, stating, “No one can doubt that investments in early education do for a child or the society in which they grow.” (Nov. 27; “In Other Words: State can’t afford not to fund preschool for low-income kids.”)
But he is incorrect. Concerned Women for America and others have been questioning his plan for “investments” since 2003, both in testimony in Pierre and in numerous publications — such as letters to the editor; newsletters, blogs and opinion editorials like this one.
Why? A research sampling evidences the need to question the perceived benefit of universal preschool.
• Dr. David Elkind, Tufts University child development professor and author of “The Hurried Child,” explains: “Children who receive academic instruction too early — generally before age 6 or 7 — are often put at risk for no apparent gain. By attempting to teach the wrong things at the wrong time, early instruction can permanently damage a child’s self-esteem, reduce a child’s natural eagerness to learn and block a child’s natural gifts and talents. …There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.”
• Headstart founder and longtime academic preschool advocate Edward Zeigler stated: “This is not the first time universal preschool … has been proposed. ...The arguments in favor of preschool were that it would reduce school failure, lower dropout rates, increase test scores and produce a generation of more competent high school graduates. … Preschool education will achieve none of these results.”
• Concerned Women for America reported psychologist Dr. Ken Madig is convinced that when young children spend too much time away from parents, “An increasing number of children suffer a ‘character disturbance’ called Antisocial Personality Disorder (APDP). The symptoms of ADP include “emotional detachment and an uncontrollable inner rage.”
• Carrie Lukas, of the Independent Women’s Forum, on Nov. 9 referenced a 2006 Education Week Analysis showed that Oklahoma and Georgia, states implementing and universal preschool over a decade ago, are now among the 10 states making the least progress on national standardized tests. Oklahoma has actually lost ground. South Dakota, with no universal governmental funded programs, continues to exhibit fourth grade scores near the top.
• Minnesota, home of Dr. Art Rolnick of Minneapolis Federal Reserve, who makes several trips here annually advocating preschool “investments,” resides in a state that fails to fully fund all-day kindergarten, much less universal preschool.
The good senator knows how many bills our state legislators have killed (at least six) since he began advocating the eventual sweeping of all 3- and 4-year-olds into the public schools, paid for by your tax dollars, thank you.
“No child or parent would ever be required to participate,” he stated.
So he predicts the future? If pre-K is so necessary, why would he deny any child the opportunity? Universal preschool certainly could become mandatory with subsequent penalties for parents who choose not to send their children.
Sen. Dempster needs to embrace the fact that surveys consistently show markedly lukewarm support for expanded tax-paid subsidies for early childcare, but tremendous enthusiasm for parent-oriented tax breaks to assist parents in raising preschool age children at home or in choosing care-giving situations not under the government’s thumb. Pew Center’s 2007 poll showed that only 11 percent of mothers prefer full-time work.
Former Education Secretary Melmer estimated at least a $50 million price-tag just to place all South Dakota 4-year olds in public school preschool. Sen. Dempster also wants 3-year olds there.
Universal preschool: Overestimated and unproven. Oversold and unrealistic.
Cindy Flakoll, of New Holland, represents a group called Concerned Women of America.
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