The failure of real-world, large-scale pre-K programs

Check out this interesting posting from Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute who is actually relating details of a debate on pre-K between Upjohn Institute economist and government Pre-K advocate Tim Bartik and Russ Whitehurst, an early education expert at the Brookings Institution who is critical of the case for universal government Pre-K.

As explained by Coulson, “Bartik is right that there are two early education programs in particular, High Scope/Perry and Abecedarian, that showed substantial long term benefits. But these were tiny programs operated by the people who had designed them and serving only a few dozen or a few score children.”

But, continues Coulson, “Whitehurst and others focus on the results of large scale federal and state programs, because these are relevant to the present policy debate.” And, concludes Coulson:

To sum up, there is at best no favorable consensus among non-experimental studies of large scale government Pre-K programs, but there is a consensus among the more reliable experimental studies: program effects fade out by the elementary school years, sometimes by the end of kindergarten. That is the evidence that matters when discussing proposals for expanding government Pre-K.

One might expect that this information would be relevant to policymakers as they discuss SJR 12 which would tap New Mexico’s permanent fund to pay for a new pre-K program. With less than a week to go, the Amendment was last in Senate Finance. It still has a long way to go before passage, but funny things can happen in the New Mexico Legislature.