Thing is, Obama’s recognition of the Peach State’s program is pure political grandstanding, with a complete disregard for the fiscal reality of the policy.
If one thing can be gleaned from both his second inaugural address and this week’s speech to Congress, President Obama means to use the next four years to cement his legacy as the liberal Ronald Reagan. Both speeches laid out a grandiose vision of more government, more regulation, and a centralized approach to programs and initiatives successfully being run at the state level.
The bureaucrat-knows-best view applies to this White House’s education philosophy, too.
Thus, in his address on Tuesday, President Obama called for a federally run effort to ensure universal access to preschool for children nationwide.
It’s an admirable goal, but the notion that the bureaucracy in Washington can craft an effective, cost-efficient model for an entire nation’s children is a misguided one, doomed to end in yet another expensive, ineffective government program.
It’s also a gross misrepresentation of the means used by a state-run program like Georgia’s.
Georgia’s Pre-Kindergarten is entirely paid for by state lottery revenues, not federal government subsidies. There’s no safety net from Washington to catch it when times are tough, yet ‘miraculously’ it has survived for two decades.
When the Great Recession hit, 20 days were subtracted from the program’s 180-day year, but this year has already seen those missing days fully restored.
Additional federal spending on an issue that should be kept as local as humanly possible, particularly at a time when the national debt exceeds $17 trillion, is hardly in the long-term interest of a rising generation of Americans.
If anything, the Georgia model is clear proof that the states should be laboratories of competition, innovation and opportunity for students.
A one-size-fits-all bureaucratic approach that may well complicate standalone state systems like the Peach State’s, whilst subsequently increasing spending and the expanding the scope of the federal government, is a flawed premise from the start.
Policy details aside, the fact remains that Georgia is a changing state. Shifting demographics are near-certain to ensure that its voters will be receiving substantially more attention from national Democrats in coming years; Obama’s visit may as well be the informal kickoff to efforts at flipping the state in 2016.
Education is already being drawn as one of the battle lines, with state-based progressive groups targeting Republican Governor Deal on the issue, using the Pre-K program as a talking point.
The Republican response to these efforts should be pointing to states, including Georgia, that have crafted their own preschool program, and know how to do so better than federal bureaucrats who are unfamiliar with the local lay of the land.
Highlighting alternative, state-based solutions to Obama’s top-down, bureaucrat-run approach is the first step to ensuring both quality and quantity in preschool programs, and is a way for Republicans to score a victory for smaller government. The Georgia approach works, largely because it’s run far away from Washington, D.C.
Howell is account director at Hynes Communications and a contributor to the Peach State political blog Georgia Tipsheet.