Unwarranted: Elizabeth Warren’s Flawed Idea

 

Elizabeth Warren, one of the – what is it now, 211 candidates for president? – seems intent on proving that having been a Harvard law professor is no bar to fatuous policy prescriptions. She has endorsed the farrago of foolishness called the Green New Deal, promises to tax the rich “make the economy work for us,” and recently proposed a shiny new policy idea fresh from 1971 – government-funded, universal pre-school.

Decade after decade, this old chestnut is trotted out as a pro-family, pro-middle class reform, and every time, assumptions about government’s competence to perform this task are blithely assumed.

Any sentence that begins “In the wealthiest country on Earth . . .” is bound to introduce a massive government program of some sort and Warren is no exception. She urges that “affordable and high-quality child care and early education should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich.” Sounds expensive. Who will pay? Warren proposes to tax the wealth of “ultra-millionaires — those with a net worth of more than $50 million. ”

Two things about taxing the rich: 1) they don’t have enough to pay for the fond schemes of politicians, and 2) they can afford to pay the estate planners and tax lawyers who know how to minimize taxes.

But even supposing the “ultra-rich” would hold still while the state extracted a fixed yearly portion of their net worth, any plan for universal pre-K deserves skepticism — the opposite of what most news stories convey. ABC News, for example, contends that “The benefits of early child care have long been documented, even showing taxpayers can make money back when investing in high-quality early education.”

This is tendentious and wrong. The links ABC provided don’t even support its assertion. The first is to a National Education Association publication (hardly a neutral arbiter), citing one famous study of extremely high-quality day care, the Abecedarian Early Childhood Intervention Project. That program got good results, but it was utterly unrepresentative of most daycares in the US. It was generously-funded and staffed by college graduates. Teachers read aloud to the children, responded to their questions, and encouraged their abilities. According to a 2006 survey by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, only 9 percent of American pre-schools were rated “very high quality.”

The second link ABC provided also references the small, unrepresentative Abecedarian program, but this paper, far from agreeing that the benefits of daycare are “documented,” notes that the matter is “strongly contested.”

Not only are high-quality daycares rare, there is abundant data that daycare can be harmful in large doses, especially for very young children, and particularly for boys. A Tennessee study found that kids enrolled in pre-K seemed at first to perform well on cognitive tests, but fell behind their peers by third grade. “You have school systems that are pushing pre-K when they have demonstrably failing K-12 systems,” Dale Farran, one of the study’s authors told FiveThirtyEight. “It makes me cringe.”

The sort of program Senator Warren envisions has already been implemented — in the Canadian province of Quebec. Universal pre-school for just $5 (later $7) a day was introduced in 1997. The number of families placing their children in care increased by 33 percent. But a follow-up study in 2015 found that boys in daycare showed more hyperactivity and aggression, while girls showed more separation anxiety. Quebec’s teenagers who had “benefitted” from the program were less happy with life in general than those from other provinces, and Quebec experienced a “sharp increase” in criminal behavior among those who had been in care.

Among the many cautionary notes to arise from the Canadian experience was the effect universal pre-school had on parents. As the Atlantic reported, a 2015 study found that “the parents of girls were two times less likely to spend time reading to, laughing with, or doing special activities like going to the library with their child.”

There is a relentless push to move children and even babies into the arms of the educational establishment even as there is near universal agreement that our schools leave much to be desired. Who has confidence that Senator Warren’s scheme would produce quality care at a reasonable price? And who doesn’t worry about the three-year-olds pushed too soon from the nest?

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  1. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Another good post, thank you. Again, more like these please!

    The left seems to have an obsessive desire to separate children from their parents, whether before, during, or after birth. This is matched only by their desire to separate taxpayers from their money. It is easy to imagine that these are different aspects of a single belief: that the citizen is, above all, a useful but anonymous little cog to be slotted into whatever role Mrs. Warren or Miss Ocasio-Cortez or another inspired central planner thinks most beneficial to the collective. Obviously, the earlier the necessary indoctrination can begin, the better.

     

     

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Mona Charen: Any sentence that begins “In the wealthiest country on Earth . . .” is bound to introduce a massive government program of some sort

    Ain’t that the truth.  The same goes with the phrase “for the children” . . .

    • #2
  3. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Mona Charen: A Tennessee study found that kids enrolled in pre-K seemed at first to perform well on cognitive tests, but fell behind their peers by third grade.

    So, no long-term benefit.

    My town recently began”free” pre-school starting at age three. I spoke to a couple of people on the town council and they said that it would be beneficial because it will raise my real estate value. People will pay more to live in a town with “free” pre-school they said. Also, since there isn’t enough room in the schools they will be kicking out a paying tenant (a private school). Losing that rent revenue will make “free” even more expensive. Maybe it is time to see if “free” pre-school really will let me sell for more.

    • #3
  4. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Mona Charen:

    Decade after decade, this old chestnut is trotted out as a pro-family, pro-middle class reform, and every time, assumptions about government’s competence to perform this task are blithely assumed.

    Any sentence that begins “In the wealthiest country on Earth . . .” is bound to introduce a massive government program of some sort and Warren is no exception. She urges that “affordable and high-quality child care and early education should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich.” Sounds expensive. Who will pay? Warren proposes to tax the wealth of “ultra-millionaires — those with a net worth of more than $50 million. ”

    Two things about taxing the rich: 1) they don’t have enough to pay for the fond schemes of politicians, and 2) they can afford to pay the estate planners and tax lawyers who know how to minimize taxes.

     

    So, as with all taxes on “the wealthy,” it will mostly hit the upper middle class. Thus, the family that does not want to send its children to the “free universal pre-school” will have a harder time making its preferred choice because that family will have to work more to pay higher taxes. “Free universal pre-school” punishes parents who make one choice in order to reward parents who want to do something different. 

    • #4
  5. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Mona Charen: what is it now, 211 candidates for president?

    I think this figure is out of date.  I’m pretty sure the count is back down to a reasonable 199, after several candidates were found to have said insensitive things in, of all places, day care, and they’ve insufficiently repented.

    • #5
  6. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    “Free universal pre-school” punishes parents who make one choice in order to reward parents who want to do something different.

    And that choice is “both parents work”.  It punishes stay-at-home moms (or dads), and locks two-income parents into that particular life choice:

    “Vote Democrat, or someone has to quit their job.”

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Mona Charen: Decade after decade, this old chestnut is trotted out . . .

    That’s a rather insensitive and disrespectful way to refer to an honored, if self-proclaimed, member of First Nations.

    • #7
  8. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Come on, you guys.  If the government spends money on it, it’s got to be good.

    • #8

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