In “Early Childhood Misstep” over at Forbes.com, Chester E. Finn, Jr. dissects the “Early Learning Challenge Fund,” the House’s effort to boost early childhood programs run by the states.
The early-childhood crowd is, of course, gaga over this bill… In reality, however, it’s a flawed piece of work that the Senate would do well to fix. Not that anyone actually expects such repairs to get made. There’s every reason to expect the Senate to accede to the House (and administration) and hand the president a bill to sign on Christmas Eve as his gift to America’s children.
It will be particularly disappointing if this–plus more money under the Christmas tree–turns out to be the full extent of Obama’s attention to early childhood. While it’s good that his team has not climbed aboard the “universal pre-school” bandwagon, strong federal leadership could make valuable contributions in this area, starting with a total makeover of Head Start (and its $7 billion per year) into the school readiness program that it ought to be. What a pity if this mixed bag of a bill is all they do.
Checker’s commentary draws on his analysis of the problems with the universal preschool movement published in an Ed Next article this summer (The Preschool Picture) and a book earlier this year (Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut). For those who prefer videos, an interview with Checker about these same issues is available here.