Obama's Vague Preschool Proposal

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 12 2013 10:29 PM

What's in Obama's Preschool Proposal?

159500549
President Obama called for "high quality" preschool education for all children in his 2013 State of the Union address.

Photo by Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images

The biggest potentially game-changing policy idea in the State of the Union was the president's call for universal, high-quality preschool. As he said, in principle excellent preschool can make a huge difference in terms of long-term outcomes for kids. It can also be a huge boost to working moms and two-income families. But "high quality" is an aspiration, not a policy. What's the policy?

Well, here's what the White House fact sheet says:

Supporting all 50 states to provide access to preschool for all low-and moderate-income children: The President is proposing to work with Congress to provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-old children with high-quality preschool, while also expanding these programs to reach hundreds of thousands of additional middle class children, and incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies, so that all children enter kindergarten prepared for academic success.
Advertisement

That sounds nice, but obviously it's not a very detailed plan. How much money is the federal government going to pony up? What's the income definition and subsidy level the president has in mind? By what standard are we assessing "high quality"? The quality point is really important, too.

People who consider themselves skeptics of K-12 education "reform" sometimes fall into a trap of thinking that preschool is like some kind of magic wand. But in fact the research on preschools is very similar to the research on K-12 schools. On both levels, some schools are excellent and make an enormous difference in kids' lives, but there are also a lot of middling to poor institutions that are adding little educational value. We have some intriguing examples of amazing preschools but little experience with bringing them up to mass scale—the exact same problem we have with K-12.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.