published Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Haslam wrong about pre-k

"It's for the kids." That's what then-Gov. Phil Bredesen told Tennesseans when he rolled out his pre-kindergarten program in 2005.

Bredesen based Tennessee's pre-k program on Georgia's model for early childhood education -- a model that studies proved time and time again fell victim to the "fade out" effect and produced no long-term benefits for students.

In every large-scale government pre-k program, including Head Start, studies show that gains made by children in pre-k fade out by about the third grade. By the second grade, students attending the Georgia pre-k program performed no better on test scores or in the classroom than children of the same socioeconomic background who did not attend the program.

Large government pre-k programs aren't successful in helping children long term. They never have been. They're a sham. A big ol' bunch of poppycock.

Since they don't work in improving educational outcomes, government pre-k schemes are ultimately little more than expensive taxpayer-funded babysitting services.

Still, even knowing how little the program would do to help children and how much it would cost taxpayers, Bredesen pushed the state into the pre-k business.

But why?

Pre-k was never about the kids for Bredesen. The program was actually always designed as nothing more than a payday for the teachers union.

At the time, the state teachers union was hemorrhaging members -- it still is -- and Bredesen, who owed the union a debt of thanks for their assistance in getting him elected both as mayor of Nashville and governor of Tennessee, saw creating more teaching jobs as a way to say "thank you." As a result of the state hiring thousands of new teachers, the teachers union would have thousands of possible new members -- and millions of dollars in new dues.

• • •

It will come as no surprise that, since its launch, Tennessee's pre-k program has been a bust.

Since 2007, the state has contracted Strategic Research Group to conduct a series of studies to chart the effects of how participation in the Tennessee pre-k program impacts academic success.

So far, the studies show that pre-k students fare a little better than other "economically disadvantaged students through the second grade."

However, Strategic Research Group determined that "[f]or students in grades 3-5, analyses have found either no significant effect of pre-k participation on assessment scores, or, in some cases, have found that students who attended pre-k, on average, score lower than their non-pre-k counterparts on some assessments.

In other words, pre-k not only didn't help students, but sometimes pre-k students actually performed worse in school than low income children who didn't go to pre-k.

Tennessee's pre-k program actually makes kids dumber!

To make matters worse, taxpayers have paid dearly for these pathetic results. Since 2005, when lawmakers enacted Tennessee's government-run pre-k bureaucracy, the scheme has devoured well over half a billion dollars in taxpayers' money. Pre-k is on pace to burn through another $91.4 million this year.

• • •

When Bredesen left office, we hoped that we'd seen the last of a governor exploiting four-year-olds for political gain.

Unfortunately, we haven't.

Rather than working to repeal the program, Gov. Bill Haslam -- in the face of the overwhelming evidence illustrating the failure of the scheme -- will likely propose an expansion of state-run pre-k in the coming legislative session, he told The Associated Press earlier this summer.

But why? The governor went to Emory, so surely the man has the basic reading and comprehension skills necessary to understand the facts -- and the facts clearly state that Tennessee's pre-k program just doesn't work.

Giving Haslam the benefit of the doubt and assuming he understands the state's pre-k is an abject failure constructed simply to pander to the teachers union, the only conclusion that any reasonable person could make is that Haslam is a self-serving conservative imposter. He's willing to sell little kids and state taxpayers down the river for a little bit of good press from fawning pre-k supporters in the media and a few pats on the back from the teachers union.

As a Republican and, at least ostensibly, a conservative, you'd think that Haslam would question whether it's the appropriate role of government to so involved in raising, nurturing and educating four-year-olds.

If he had, he would have found a number of reports discouraging pre-k for developmental reasons, including a particularly involved 2005 study by researchers at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, which found that pre-k "hinders social development and created poor social behavior, such as bullying and aggression, and a lack of motivation to take part in classroom activities." Apparently for the sake of their social development, it's better for preschool-aged children to simply play and interact on their own terms, not in a structured, formal school setting.

Before Haslam pours additional tax dollars into pre-k and gets the government entangled in the lives of more little four-year-olds, he needs to ask, "who really benefits from pre-k?" The answer isn't children or taxpayers. It's the teachers union, which grows richer any time the state's education bureaucracy expands.

If Haslam really wants what's best for children, he'll fight for less pre-k, not more.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.

lesliesmart - How dare you use such a term. To use the "f-word" term for gay people is completely uncalled for and disgusting. I hope you're banned from ever making another comment.

August 26, 2012 at 1:17 a.m.
ldurham said...

Good grief. I think Drew is terrible too, but "lesliesmart" the one trick pony best known for his/her constant whining about Greg (King Liar) Vital, should definitely be banned for the homosexual slur. I hope the TFP has the cojones to do it.

August 26, 2012 at 8:37 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...


Perhaps if you put the blame where it belongs on Vital's dishonesty and deceit you'd feel better, but I doubt it.

And the allegation against the TFP would be libel, not slander. Did you get your university degree the same place as Vital?

Have a nice day stewing in your own juices.

August 26, 2012 at 9:47 a.m.
ChattTN74 said...

The writer of the editorial didn't do enough research. Vandy and the Peabody Research Institute state otherwise on the effectiveness of pre-k programs.

August 26, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.
GOP_moderate said...

There are much better uses for that money. Pre-k has, at best, no effect. This reminds me of Bush's new entitlement spending: an unnecessary, vain effort to be popular with liberals. But it shows up well in polls so Hallam will fight with the legislature in January to prove to the left that he's a nice guy (unlike those other mean old Republicans).

August 26, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.
ldurham said...

The TFP wisely deleted the homosexual slur from "lesliesmart" on this editorial. However, they did not in the "Soft Despotism" editorial comment section. Not yet, anyway.

August 26, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.
FreePressEditor said...

ChattTN74 - The Vandy study focuses on preparedness entering kindergarten. Since pre-k essentially teaches children what they learn in the first couple of months of kindergarten, they obviously do better re-learning the same information than children who are learning something for the first time.

The Vandy study doesn't look at long-term effects and, again, that's where the "fade out" effect comes in. It's a waste of money if, by the 3rd grade, you can't tell a difference between kids of the same socioeconomic background who went to pre-k and those who did not.

(It's a HUGE waste of money when the pre-k kids actually perform worse in school compared to kids of the same socioeconomic background, which is the case in TN.)

The Vandy study is not considered terribly valuable by many researchers who look at educational attainment and quality since it's not longitudinal and cannot measure long-term impact. It just looks at what a child knows going into kindergarten.

What does measure long-term impact is the series of state-funded Strategic Research Group studies. Those studies consistently indicate that TN's pre-k provides no long-term educational gain for its students.

-Drew Johnson
(I don't author every editorial, but I am proud to claim this one. Pre-k research is a bit of a passion of mine).

August 26, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.
ChattTN74 said...

Drew, Thanks for the response. Since you've delved into the research, has any study pointed to what needs to be done extend the effect of a pre-k program?

August 26, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.
FreePressEditor said...

ChattTN74- Everything I've ever read indicates that large-scale gov't pre-k programs all suffer from fade out and have no real long-term value. Some studies show there is value in very small pre-k programs for children with serious disabilities (those are usually administered best privately, but can be done publicly). Most studies agree (like the Stanford/UC-Berkeley one I mentioned), however, that for the overwhelming majority of kids,just being a wild 4-year-old kid, running around, interacting with neighborhood kids and eating dirt is more valuable for social development than pre-k.

But the question we need to ask, instead of "how to extend the effects of pre-k?," is "why does gov't need to be involved in pre-k at all?". Why fix a broken system when the system isn't even necessary?

If the desire is to give childcare to poor kids, it's better to just provide low income parents with vouchers so their child can go to the same high-quality preschools that we'd all want out kids to attend. That beats creating a huge, expensive, unsuccessful bureaucracy just to babysit a small number of children for 5 or 6 hours a day.

August 26, 2012 at 9:47 p.m.

Well, I'm surprised you've actually done some moderation of this forum.

Now keep doing it, and maybe you'll have real discussions.

Of course, the real problem most people aren't noticing is that growing up today is not like when they grew up. For better or worse, it's a different world.

August 26, 2012 at 10:09 p.m.
rolando said...

Having not read lesliesmart's oh-so-highly objectionable use of yet another alphabet-word, I cannot directly comment on it.

But once upon a time I was censored and castigated [in private] by the moderator for using the word "cajones". His argument was that I could have used "guts" and refused to allow my word with much broader meaning. Yet here it is on this thread.

Some people just refuse to accept words that happen to disagree with their personal world-view. What if lesliesmart had used the word "faggot" in its proper context? If memory serves, it is a bundle of sticks that is burned. [And yes, I am aware of his apparent bigotry.]

August 27, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.
rolando said...

The pre-K scam also removed Mom and Dad [if he's still around] from the picture. Free oh-so-healthy lunches, you know. Politicos believe parents do not have a clue about balanced meals or much of anything else so the guv'ment has to step in... Meanwhile our first lady -- with an expensively disguised bodyshape -- tells our schools what they MUST feed the kiddies [all the while totally pigging out herself on 1200-1500 calories of BBQ ribs in one sitting].

August 27, 2012 at 6:43 p.m.
againstprek said...

Another thing that should be noted about the damage PreK has done is to the local economy. It has caused many private, TAX PAYING, child cares to go out of business. It was so kind of the state to institute the 3 Star program on those agencies and then a year later create a socialist program for free child care that undermined the tax paying programs.

In order for a private facility to receive and maintain 3 Stars they had to spend more money on equipment and better trained caregivers to meet the standards.

PreKs are NOT REQUIRED to be evaluated by the 3 Star assessment program. Why? Because it's a sham program to pad the pockets of the Department of Education. Where's the published studies of children coming from private 3 Star programs vs the children in PreK? They are all tested when they arrive at kindergarten. There are no published studies because DOE would be embarassed by the scores. Children in private 3 Star programs do much better.

PreK is a complete fraud and nothing but socialism. People need to care for their own children or get up off their lazy behinds and get a job so they can afford quality child care!

August 28, 2012 at 10:53 a.m.
ChattTN74 said...

Been meaning to reply back, but went through a little bit more of the lit on pre-k. I'll agree with you there that a one-size fits all program may not be the most effective use of resources. A voucher system like you mentioned, would be a good choice with keeping additoinal government/bueacratic growth to a minimum. I've seen a little on what needs to happen after that, but that gets into other things ,like smaller classes, one-on-one time , involved parents and recess.

August 30, 2012 at 4:21 p.m.
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