Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Information Alert: Gov. Kaine's Pre-School Voucher Mandate Attempt

...from The Family Foundation...
Governor Tim Kaine today unveiled a greatly scaled down version of his multi-million dollar state government controlled day care system for Virginia. Called "Universal Day Care" or "Pre-K," the creation of such a program is one of the Governor's highest priorities.

Originally, the Governor said the program would be "voluntary" for families that want to choose government run day care for their children.

In his revised plan, "public-private" partnerships are also encouraged, opening the door for private day care centers to participate (and receive state funds). According to the Governor his new program could cost $125 million per year at full implementation, but most believe that number is extremely low.

The Governor clearly saw that his gigantic $1 billion (he estimated $300 million) a year pre-school initiative was going nowhere in the "cash strapped" General Assembly. Being a smart politician, he's taking the incremental approach.

Interestingly, the program appears to be something of a voucher system, which is illegal in Virginia. It will be interesting to see if the Governor argues that in this case a voucher program is acceptable, considering his party's unbridled hatred of real school choice.

What may appeal to some is a grading system the Governor would like to implement for day care centers across the Commonwealth, including those privately run, and church run, that would, according to the Governor, "help parents and guardians become better-informed consumers of the services and resources that are available for their children."

Unfortunately, such a bureaucratic, government run system may include standards that would drive hundreds of small, church run day care centers out of business. And if the church run day care centers choose not to participate in the "voluntary" grading system for fear of government intrusion, they will appear black marked.

Make no mistake - the goal of proponents of the universal pre-k scheme, like those with the National Education Association (NEA) and its Virginia affiliate, the VEA, is state forced education of 2, 3 and 4 year old children in a government run system.

For several years the NEA has had as one of its primary goals a compulsory universal day care program. The Governor is adamant that he wants a voluntary system - but he leaves office in just over two years. He can't guarantee that whatever program he implements won't become compulsory with time.

These elites believe that a government worker can raise your children better than you can. At the present time, the only time parents have "school choice" is prior to kindergarten. After that, it's up to the government where your children go to school unless you have the financial wherewithal to choose an alternative.

Advocates of universal day care claim that children - low, middle or higher income - will do better in their academic careers if they have at least a year of "preschool." According to the Pacific Research Institute, RAND Corporation and several other studies, however, children who attend preschool programs have yet to demonstrate any improvement in education outcomes over the long term.

Any positive effects disappear by 4th grade. In addition, in states that are held out as models - Oklahoma and Georgia - the kids universal pre-k was originally intended to help, those in low-income families, are being forced out because there are few seats available.

Our job at The Family Foundation is to remind our legislators and the public that parents know best. If a parent wants to choose a private pre-K program to supplement the tremendous learning that goes on in the home, so be it; however, we know that the results of required pre-K are not beneficial for all.

Government run pre-K programs are another example of failed ideas that politicians continue to dangle in front of the electorate.

The Family Foundation is currently strategizing with legislators and will work hard to ensure that parents are free to make the right choice for their family when it comes to raising their children.

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