Preschool Advocates Are Wrong

Published February 22, 2013

This letter to the editor was published in the Birmingham News in Alabama on February 22.

Alabama politicians are flat-out wrong to say research shows pre-K improves student learning, graduation rates, and so forth.

Here’s why. 

Practically every study showing benefits to pre-K is based on two or three intensive, boutique programs, two of which only treated about 60 kids, that ended about 40 years ago. They included home visits, health services, and required family participation. They also cost some $40,000-$90,000 per child. No state has ever done anything similar, nor can afford to. 

Subsequent state and federal preschool programs, like those in Oklahoma and Georgia, have extremely disappointing outcomes. Participants, on average, gain no lasting academic or social skills, despite billions spent. In short, no large preschool program has ever returned taxpayers a dime. 

There is also significant evidence that taking small people from their families at young ages is devastating to their emotional health. Children so treated are more aggressive, neurotic, and sickly. 

In short, saying state pre-K will have the great benefits of three long-ago programs no one has ever replicated is like putting a “magic brain juice” label on a bottle of ketchup and telling kids to drink it.


Joy Pullmann
Education research fellow, Heartland Institute
Chicago, IL