Actor Rob Reiner, who gained his fame as 'Meathead' on the popular All in the Family sitcom, has successfully taken his liberal television political views to California's governement. But he has his eyes on the nation as well. The Washington Post describes his "dual crusade: to change the direction of politics and to improve the performance of kids in schools. He bids, someday, to be the Democrats' answer to Ronald Reagan."
It was just a few years ago, in 1998, when Reiner's Prop 10 passed and got him appointed as the first Chair of First 5 California Children and Families Commission by Govenor Gray Davis, to implement Prop 10's "health care, preschool and other critical services to prepare them (preschoolers) to succeed in school."
Prop 10 put a 50-cent per pack tax on cigarettes and has generated more than $4 billion since 1999, with 20 percent of the money going to First 5. In 2004-05 alone First 5's share of the money was $119 million. Today Reiner and his commission are facing a full-scale audit into allegations they used government money to promote his newest initiative, Prop 82, which will be on California's June ballot. If passed, Prop 82 will establish universal preschool for all 4 year olds in the Golden State.
But what's Reiner and his campaign not telling us about his newest initiative?
First, what Reiner says Prop 82 will do:
-Establish "free" voluntary, half-day state/government-run preschools for all 4-year-olds regardless of want or need.
-Will be funded by taxing the top 1.7% of income earners in California, increasing taxes to 11% on individuals with taxable income of $400,000 / couples of $800,000 or more.
-Will Cost an estimated $2.3 billion a year. (That's $8,000 per child which is more than some kindergarten through Grade12 schools pay for a full day).
-Requires all pre-school teachers to have a Bachelor’s Degree.
-Kids who go to preschool will do better in kindergarten and elementary school, graduate from high school, attend college, get better jobs with higher salaries and become happy consumers who will be less likely to do drugs and commit crimes than those who don't go to preschool.
-Based on a RAND Corporation study (funded by the pro-universal-preschool Packard Foundation) claims for every $1 spent on preschool, society will get back $2.62 in long-term benefits such as better student performance and lower crime.
What Reiner is not telling you:
Claiming he consulted with educational experts, interestingly Reiner failed to sit down with any associations representing preschools. He failed to consult with any of the California K-12 school reform groups. And he never talked with any home-schooling organizations. So, who did he consult? The existing interlocking layers of dysfunctional bureaucracy, California state, county and district levels of education, where parents, voters and taxpayers have very little say or control. Prop 82 will hand preschools over to the same bureaucracy .
Reiner also fails to consider the substantial analysis and findings on the effects of early preschool on under 5 year olds in his efforts to gain preschool for all. Consider:
Stanford University Findings:
In their review, "How Much is Too Much? - the Influence of Preschool Centers on Children's Development Nationwide' they detail their analysis which utilized data from 14,162 kindergartners and their parents and teachers. Which found that children from poor families had gains in cognitive skills when attending preschools by about 10%, and double that for English-proficient Hispanic children. However, they also found that there is less evidence of cognitive skill gains for youngsters from middle-class home, or for other children from lower-income families compared with their counterparts who remain at home with a parent.
The Stanford study also states that there is little known about possible impacts from the duration (the age at which children enter preschool) or the intensity (hours enrolled each week) of attendance. And that attendance in preschool centers, even for short periods of time each week, hinders the rate at which young children develop social skills and display the motivation to engage classroom tasks. This confirms other studies showing increased behavior problems caused by out of home care.
In January 2006, UC Santa Barbara researchers found that whatever student achievement gains can be attributed to preschool attendance largely evaporates after a few years in elementary school. In other words, by about 2nd grade skill levels of children who attended preschool and those who did not were the same and remained so throughout the rest of their education.
UC Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller issued a study last year that examined research on teacher education and preschool, and found that studies claiming to show a connection between teachers holding bachelor's degrees and better student performance were statistically and methodologically flawed.
Georgetown University Professor William Gormley admits a universal pre-K program may or may not be the best path to school readiness. There is inconsistent evidence as to whether universal preschool helps improve the short-term performance of middle and upper-income children.
Other information to consider:
Lance T. Izumi, Director of Dducation Studies and Senior Fellow in California studies at the Pacific Research Institute says about Prop 82 specifically, "Preschool for all is a seductive proposition, but the reality is that the purported benefits would likely be much less than what Rob Reiner and his cohorts are promising. And with experts arguing that Reiner’s cost estimate of $2 billion is way too low, universal preschool looks to be a very expensive bad idea."
John Bruer, author of “The Myth of the First Three Years” and President of the James S. McDonnel Foundation writes,"Brain science has nothing to say about what happens to babies' brains when parents read to them. There's nothing wrong with reading, but in other cultures they're not as concerned with it as we are. We have to be careful in our attempts to use biology to justify our values. Human children thrive under a great variety of social and cultural conditions. Yes, kids should be ready to read when they start school. But starting at age 7 is not a biological constraint."
Dr. Karen Effrem, pediatrician, and board member of the ICSPP (International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology) said regarding this issue, "There is a significant element of indoctrination in these programs as evidenced by the Head Start national standards and the National Association for theEducation of Young Children standards that bring up issues of gender identity, homosexuality, environmentalism, and social activism with three andfour year olds. Preschool does not raise test scores. Despite a quadrupling of the number of four year olds attending preschool nationally over the past 40 years, test scores in reading, math, and science have remained stagnant over the same period.” See her testimony before the Minnesota Senate Early Childhood Finance Division: Dr. Karen Effrem Testimony Against SF 2841 - Preschool Socioemotional Screening
And just for the record, Paul Haubner, a specialist for the National Education Association has said, "The schools cannot allow parents to influence the kind of values-education their children receive in school; that is what is wrong with those who say there is a universal system of values. Our (humanistic) goals are incompatible with theirs. We must change their values.“
I don't think so!
When looking at Prop 82, or any universal preschool-for-all proposals, we need to keep in mind that while little kids need and deserve a secure place to spend their days where they can grow and develop during the first 5 years of life, that home is still a child's best "preschool" for the vast majority of American children. If mom must work, daycare is a better alternative. More on that in Part II.
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