Hope, Change, and ‘Early Childhood Education’


New Mexico’s junior senator had a particularly cloying — and fact-free — Labor Day message for his constituents.

In his first sentence, Martin Heinrich got the origin of the holiday wrong. Labor Day, in the senator’s shopworn morality play, was created to recognize “workers and the labor movement’s fight for fair wages and better working conditions.” But as historian Thaddeus Russell observed, “In 1884, when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making Labor Day a national holiday … he and its sponsors intended it … as a promotion of the great American work ethic. Work, they believed, was the highest calling in life, and Labor Day was a reminder to get back to it. It was placed at the end of summer to declare an end to the season of indolence, and also to distance it from May Day, the spring event that had become a symbol of the radical labor movement.”

In addition to flunking history, Heinrich’s endorsement of “early childhood education” was an indication of how clueless the fedpol is on the realities of preschool.

Grover Whitehurst, a scholar with the liberal Brookings Institution, has found “weak evidence behind the groundswell of advocacy for public investments in statewide universal pre-k.” Research has repeatedly shown that whatever small gains preschool produces vanish within a few years. (It’s known as the “fadeout effect.”)

Last week, one of the nation’s top teacher-union bosses was in Albuquerque, to pitch a $175 million preschool plan. Calling it a tool to “build a middle class in America,” she touted the scheme as a “really exciting ground-up innovation.”

Nonsense. Real innovations aimed at boosted the well-being of students would assault family fragmentation and violent crime in New Mexico.

In Utah, where test scores are high, state taxpayers don’t fund a dime of preschool. But the Beehive State is a very different place than the Land of Enchantment. Both have underclasses, of course, but Utah’s illegitimacy rate in less than half of New Mexico’s. The violent-crime rate in our state is nearly three times what it is in our neighbor to the northwest.

Democrats and Republicans from coast to coast have been suckered into supporting massive “investments” in preschool. The results have been abysmal — and served to distract from the true causes of underachievement in education.