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.

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7 Replies to “Tax-Funded Pre-K supporters ignore history, data”

  1. So far the campaign, with receives lavish funding from a church-affiliated nonprofit, is all about getting the money: long on emotion and short on credibility. Its proponents have yet to advance a specific plan or offer a successful model, but instead want to put the funding in the hands of the same unaccountable stumblebums who run our failing educational system.

    Unfortunately, our gullible voters are likely to approve this unless an organized opposition group offers a reasonable alternative that gets down to nuts and bolts. Someone — perhaps a coalition of business groups or what passes for a Republican party — needs to outline specific requirements for a workable pre-K program, such as a requirement tying welfare benefits to participation.

  2. I am Will Steinberg. I am running for the APS Board, District #7. I am for changes. I do not believe in pre-K education as the results show. I am about “Dollars to Diplomas”. A 1.3 BILLION budget should graduate 90% of our students and of course our RESULTS say otherwise, again! We can not keep going down this path.

  3. The key to improving our school system in New Mexico is to educate voters that throwing money at education is almost never a solution to any problem. The millions of dollars being spent this year for new playgrounds and gymnasiums at APS schools is just one example of wasted tax payer money that will do almost nothing to improve graduation rates or test scores.

  4. It is interesting that Mr. Gessing makes no mention of the current NM Pre-K program which has been in existence for over 10 years and which has no relation to Head Start. There are two arms to NM Pre-K: PED oversees the public school NM Pre-K programs while CYFD oversees the programs within contracted private child care centers as well as some city programs. The NM Pre-K program is different than Head Start in a number of ways. One difference is that there is no income qualification for participants. Additionally, NM Pre-K operates under different standards (albeit similar). NIEER has completed efficacy studies of the NM Pre-K program, and much, much data is collected by the state and held within the state NM Pre-K database.

    While I am not commenting one way or the other on the validity and/or quality of the NM Pre-k program, I think it is important for the author and readers to understand that there is an entire, and huge, program already in existence across New Mexico that is not mentioned or considered in the editorial by Mr. Gessing.

    1. You are correct on all of this. And we have little or no data on the effectiveness of this program. That said, I have just asked for some information on this. We’ll see what is available. Thanks for the note. Since we didn’t have any good studies on NM’s existing programs, I didn’t make that part of my argument, but there is no doubt that such information would be helpful.

  5. Those that know me know I have been working to solve this mess called education here at APS since 2014 first by running for the Board, then presenting a Common Core conference that educated the attendees as to the history and the implementation of the program. The next step was to recruit candidates for the APS board of education that would implement the changes needed to fix the problems. The time for talking is over. There are 4 districts up for election. That represents a majority vote on the board that can implement the changes to make APS the best in the state maybe even in the country. Please vote. Help these candidates get elected. Charles White #3 Kayla Marshall #5 Douglas Brown #6 and Will Steinberg #7.

  6. Virtually every form of early childhood education attempted has failed, miserably. Head Start is one of a number of programs that serve as make-work or baby-sitting programs.
    Nice would be parents or other loving family members able and willing to keep the kiddies at home until age seven, socializing them regularly through contact with relatives, friends and neighbors, in an environment that teaches and encourages reading from sources other than lighted screens. And play; lots of play.
    Then they have an opportunity to succeed, if the family attaches sufficient importance to a lifetime of education.
    Remember, even a university has little to do with the education we ultimately attain. We succeed in spite of the institution, not because of it.
    You don’t really think all the “cum laudes” at Ivy League schools are smarter or better educated than the rest, do you? Get past it.

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