Should Preschool be in a Federal K-12 Education Bill?

With congressional education leaders looking to rewrite K-12 education policies, liberals continue to push Congress to expand funding for ineffective federal preschool programs.

After one House Republican bill passed the Committee on Education and the Workforce, President Obama threatened to veto the bill. “[The bill] fails to make critical investments for this Nation’s students, including high-quality preschool for America’s children,” part of the veto threat read. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the same point in February, writing, “A reauthorized law must expand access to quality preschool.”

But there are several reasons preschool policy should not be added to K-12 education reform.

First of all, federally-funded preschool is ineffective. A 2012 study by Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services found initial benefits for participants in the Head Start program, which is largely made up of children in families with incomes under the poverty line. But initial gains faded out and were gone by the third grade, let alone high school graduation. Other studies have shown gains may even fade by first grade and that the program is vulnerable to fraud. It is not unreasonable to expect preschool policies to be effective by the time supposed beneficiaries leave the K-12 system.