ON-Lion Letter
"[A] troubling contradiction bordering on dishonesty casts a shadow over today’s mighty push for universal pre-K education in America," Chester E. Finn, Jr., writes in the cover article of the new, Fall 2009 issue of Education Next.

Universal-preschool advocates argue that we should give "needy kids a boost up the ladder of educational and later-life success by narrowing the achievement gaps that now trap too many of them on the lower rungs," according to Finn in "The Preschool Picture." "Serious pursuit of that objective would entail intensive, educationally sophisticated programs, starting early in a child’s life, perhaps even before birth, and enlisting and assisting the child’s parents from day one.

"Yet the programmatic and political strategy embraced by today’s pre-K advocates is altogether different," he says.  "They seek to furnish relatively skimpy preschool services to all 4 million of our nation’s four-year-olds (and then, of course, all 4 million three-year-olds), preferably under the aegis of the public schools."

Finn is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and senior editor of Education Next.

"Sustaining whatever pre-K gains can be produced, especially for poor kids, is ... principally a challenge for K—12 policy and practice.  But that does not mean entrusting pre-K education to public-school systems," he concludes.  "Adding more years to the present public-education mandate would simply give ineffectual school systems additional time to fumble around while entangling pre-K education more tightly in the web of school politics, federalism disputes, bureaucratic rigidities, and adult interest groups."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports Education Next, which is published by Hoover.
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