Sorry, Senator, the ‘Scientific Evidence’ Isn’t Convincing


One of the greatest disappointments about public policy today is the Democrat-Republican consensus on “early childhood education.” The groupthink is on display in today’s edition of The Santa Fe New Mexican. Reporter Milan Simonich wrote that “Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, said he was satisfied that scientific evidence shows that early childhood education is effective,” but expressed “concerns about taking money from the [Land Grant Permanent Fund] and then making sure it would be spent properly.”

Transparency, oversight, and accountability are always desirable, of course, but the senator is wildly off the mark in believing that preschool is backed by strong data.

Despite working for the left-leaning Brookings Institution, developmental psychologist Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, who once served as the director of the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education, finds no “evidence of program success when we look to state pre-K programs.”

In Georgia, for example, studies have yielded sobering results. One concluded that the “estimated effects of Universal Pre-K availability on test scores and grade retention are positive, but are not statistically significant, suggesting there were no discernible effects on statewide academic achievement.” Another found that “positive effects for children from low-income families … were offset by negative effects for children from higher-income families.”

We’ve known for a long time that Head Start is a failure, and state-level programs are producing similar outcomes. “Universal preschool” has an enormous price tag, and there is no “scientific evidence” demonstrating that it is a worthwhile “public investment.”