NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 23, 2007

Sen. Hillary Clinton's most recent tack to the left has involved proposing a bill that would allow government to take over small, independent preschools.  This super-nanny proposal is reminiscent of her ill-fated single-payer health plan, say Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute; and Bruce Fuller, a University of California, Berkeley sociologist.

Under Clinton's plan:

  • States would be given $28 billion over five years to incorporate the nation's 120,000 preschools now run in firms, churches and storefronts into a government-run system.
  • The system would be a colorful, mixed-market blend of local centers, from Montessori programs to preschools run inside large companies.

Unfortunately, to get support for the plan, Clinton's blueprint has played fast and loose with the facts, say Olsen and Fuller:

  • One claim is that preschool would pay for itself through fewer high school dropouts and rising wages.
  • And while some poor students would benefit, studies show that cognitive gains from preschool quickly fade out for middle-class children; meanwhile, social development slows for those spending long days in centers.
  • Additionally, Clinton's bill would direct governors to require that all preschool teachers acquire four-year college degrees; but this symbol of quality is empirically unrelated to children's developmental growth, according to recently published studies.

Almost three-quarters of young parents say that one parent at home is the best arrangement, according to a Public Agenda poll.  Rather than taking over the preschool industry, government should empower families and companies, says Olsen and Fuller:

  • Corporate efforts and tax policies that build from parents' preferences are essential. 
  • Government might also strengthen parents' purchasing power with stronger child-care tax credits. 
  • Low-income families would benefit from expansion of portable grants to choose from a variety of options.

Source: Darcy Olsen and Bruce Fuller, "Clinton's Hostile Preschool Takeover," Investor's Business Daily, July 20, 2007.


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