Tax-Funded Pre-K supporters ignore history, data

The top priority for most Democrats in New Mexico’s Legislature in 2017 is HJR 1 which would tap the permanent fund to create a new system of universal pre-k. Unlike traditional legislation which requires the Governor’s signature, this one is would amend New Mexico’s Constitution. Martinez can’t stop it and no one can vote against it on “process” grounds as they might on say minimum wage or legalizing marijuana.

Unfortunately, New Mexico’s ability to effectively administer a high quality pre-K system must be called into question. The Albuquerque Journal just cited a report that ranked New Mexico’s federally-funded “Head Start” program dead last in the nation.

Then there is our existing school system which spends a lot for what can only be described as mediocre results.

Unfortunately, rather than implementing serious reforms (school choice being one) to improve existing schools, the rush is on to spend even more money. Ironically, even the man whose research forms the basis for pre-K advocates’ agenda, James Heckman, says that bad pre-K is worse than no pre-K.

As Heckman argued in a critique of a study decrying Tennessee’s poor pre-K performance, “Low quality programs produce weak and even sometimes harmful results.” Heckman’s research on the “success” of pre-K programs itself is highly questionable, but that’s another story.

What we do know is that New Mexico’s Head Start program is the worst in the nation (and Head Start itself is a boondoggle). New Mexico’s K-12 system performs near the bottom of all studies. Yet, we should spend hundreds of millions on a pre-K and that will solve our woes. Right.