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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pre K

Education is very important to me-both personally and because I know it is important to my constituents as well. Making education the best it can be will take more than just funding.

Many people live by the theory that if you throw money at a problem or create another program, the problem will be solved-or improved.

Efficiency is important-in other words, where will get the most bang for the taxpayer buck so to speak.

Education spending raises questions. Where do we get the money? How much will the program cost long term? Short term? Is there a continuous source for the funding? If not, where will it come from later? Where should we allocate funding for the best results? We will be able to see results? How will we measure them? Is this the best investment of precious tax dollars? How has this worked elsewhere?

These are all questions I have asked about the Pre-K plan, and some answers vary depending on whom you ask and what their own goals are. I even asked the Governor's staff how this program is different from ideas proposed and passed by Lamar Alexander 20 years ago-but received no answer.

I have not made up my mind yet, but the facts so far are pushing me in one direction. There are amendments and facts to be put forward that may change my opinion-but at this point we will have to wait and see.

This pre-k plan is currently optional and will be initially funded by the lottery with a local buy in.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

Our states greatest weakness is in 8-12th grade. We don't graduate as many as we should, and those that do, don't go to college. The original goal of the lottery was to increase the number of students getting a college education.

I think before we start spending excess money, we should fully fund existing programs. Our K-4 students score the highest internationally. Once we get to 4-8, we have a drop off. Grades 8-12 drops off even more. Pre-K testing from other areas has had mixed results-some say no noticeable differences after grade 2, some say no difference after grade 4.

The Georgia model that is similar to ours reveals no noticeable difference at all. They have had this program for 10 years and spent over a billion dollars. (Please see the Georgia results in Drew Johnson's Policy Study on the Pre-K program. You can download or view this study at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research at www.tennesseepolicy.org)

I have heard statements made frequently about one study that showed “every $1.00 invested returns $7.00.” The Governor often quotes this statement. Unfortunately, the program is not at all like the one being proposed, nor has it been duplicated by anyone.

Many representatives wanted to discuss some of these questions and facts, and therefore held a press conference to openly discuss and address the issues and questions. The Governor and/or his office were invited to attend. But guess what? He did not appear and not one staff member showed up.

This is not an isolated incidence. Many representatives have questions. Since session began many have asked “how will children be tested?” “what will be considered a successful result?” etc.

The Governor's response? Silence.

Other areas of concern? The Governor reports an initial start up of 25 million from lottery money---an estimated 5,000 per child with voluntary enrollment.

But I have been told that amendments to keep this strictly voluntary have been killed. I will have to research this further for you.

The NEA wants this program in place ASAP. According to their own estimates, they predict a cost per child of 8,000-9,000 per child.

“Voluntary” tends to become mandatory (see teacher pay equalization suit) as soon as one person files a suit.

And while the Governor will initially use lottery money, he recommends tapping into the general fund in two years.

In two years it looks as if legislators will be faced with cutting other programs-such as after school programs, sports,higher ed, k-12 funding, etc. (It's happening in other states.)to pay for this program.

Or we will be faced with fighting the income tax again or another tax increase of sorts or both.

Will we end up cutting k-12 or make pre-K -12 make do with the same funding as k-12?

Many other questions are still unanswered. Crowding in schools? Schools will have 8 grades, instead of 7. Teacher shortages will only be worse-especially as pre-K requires a greater teacher to student ratio. Will teachers and resources be stretched even thinner?

Does this program sound good so far? More later…



  1. What are you doing to make homeschooling more acceptable and available? The fact that Ivy League universities are beginning to recruit homeschooled students should give politicians a clue as to where resources should be directed.

  2. Actually the lottery has greatly increased the number of applications at UT this year. I couldn't tell you off the top off my head, but check the stats. Also, don't be misled by reports that say that the United States is in the bottom quarter in education. When these thinktanks do release studies showing these numbers, they don't tell the public that most countries scoring in the upper ranks are testing *only* their best performing students. In some Asian countries, for example, as students progress through school, some are filtered out to "remedial" education classes. The highest performers are sent to the state academies. It is in these academies that the testing for international comparisons are being performed, not in the remedial education centers.

    You are right, though, throwing money at it doesn't make the problem better. (Are we agreeing?)

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  5. This is another program that sounds all warm and fuzzy-how could anyone be against it? The answer is that only the NEA and politicans wanting to demagogue will support this. How can any honest person want to place 4 year olds into a failing system a year earlier than they presently are forced into? When the same corrupt NEA that runs our public schools support spending an extra $8-10,000/child, much of which will go to teachers salaries and NEA dues(and democratic party campaign workers)- I am against it. Why not let the parents of these children spend the cash on a real preschool-no, just kidding-I know that's stupid.
    John D Rudd MD
    Nashville, TN

  6. I think that you are beginning to see the light on this issue, Rep. Campfield. I am so happy hear it. Pre-K is wrong in so many ways:
    1- It is wrong to turn our children over to the government at any age, let alone at 4 years old.
    2- We are accused of not spending enough on the educational system as it is set up today. It makes no sense to begin new programs while not being able to fund commitments that we have already made.
    3- How can we expect two of the least qualified organizations to do something well, when in fact, these two institutions (government and unions) do almost nothing well.

    It is ludicrous to expect Pre-K to "return on our investment" when there in no proof, what so ever, that children will gain from the additional year in school. In truth, it is children with whom parents have invested the most time, that actually test better. Does the govenment really think that it and a bunch of union members can really do better than one on one time between parent and child?

    Thanks for letting me vent. Great blog.

  7. Eight thousand dollars seems very steep for day care.


  9. At four years old, children do best in unstructured, nonrigid environments. They should not be in school. They need as much free playtime as possible. Home or grandma's house is best, though I know that isn't where many kids are today, with mom working.

    I came from a working-class household with almost no books in it except the Bible. I did not go to nursery school or kindergarten. I did not know how to read when I started first grade when I was five years old (since my birthday is in early fall). But I graduated from high school with a 99 average in college prep.

    I did not suffer or fall behind because I was outside playing all day with other baby boomers when we were four and five years old.

    And my own kids did not suffer or fall behind after being allowed the same time to be free.

    Recent reports tell us that anxiety levels in children and adolescents have greatly increased -- most likely because of the kids' heavy, structured schedules these days. The kids are losing creativity, imagination, and other crucial things our society needs for future invention and development. Kids today have no time to explore, think, reflect, create. Their brains and their souls suffer.

    I read that many of today's kids love and prefer the old shows from the Fifties and Sixties, like "Leave it to Beaver." They yearn for something they know is missing. A simpler, quieter time that allowed freedom to wander around or do "nothing" at all. Something we had in whole or in part.

    For heaven's sake, let them be kids for the little while they have today.

    My two cents.

  10. It seems pretty obvious to me that higher stress levels in children is directly related to them being farmed out to strange care-givers, certainly the earlier the farming out, the greater the anxiety. More on that here: http://nationalreview.com/lowry/lowry081203.asp . But it should be stated bluntly that this is socialistic. The State cannot and should not replace the institution of the family. I'll always remember then-Sen. Phil Gramm's solitary statement upon reading Hillary Clinton's healthcare plan: "This plan is going to pass over my cold, dead political body." We need more such elected officials. I urge you to draw a line in the sand Rep. Campfield.

  11. wait till you read my next post

  12. A section in Rudy Giuliani's book, "Leadership", describes how many citizens in NYC during his tenure as mayor "expected" government to essentially raise their children. Giuliani gives several strong arguments against parents having this kind of mentality. He points out, though, that if the parents are already thinking like that, it's probably too late.

    By the way, Ivy League schools are recruiting homeschooled children more than in the past, but not completely because of the students' academics. The new affirmative action recruiting plans of the 21st century include a diversity of educational background; you can see that homeschooling falls right into that ideal. It seems that society is finally shirking the idea that skin color is the key component of diversity.

  13. I read that many of today's kids love and prefer the old shows from the Fifties and Sixties, like "Leave it to Beaver." They yearn for something they know is missing. A simpler, quieter time that allowed freedom to wander around or do "nothing" at all. Something we had in whole or in part.

    I notice that my little brothe (16) and his friends watch more Nick at Nite than other shows. No one in my family had much of an explanation...

    I agree (for once) with the rep. on this one. I am for pre-k taught by government, but I think it should be paid for by those who use it, as maybe an alternative to daycare. I definately don't think it should be mandatory, but what LEA is going to opt out? A few parents are going to push the LEA and therefore push the county to semi-fund pre-K. That will only result in higher taxes or a shoddy run program...usually both.


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