In Hillary's world, Montessori schools wouldn't pass muster

With her announcement of a $5 billion universal preschool program, Mamma Hillary is daring to tread where Rob “Meathead” Reiner has tread before — and failed. Miserably.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Mrs. Clinton, the self-appointed Village Matron, is proposing a $5 billion domestic program aimed at funding universal “pre-kindergarten” programs around the country for states that want to participate.

This sounds awfully familiar to Reiner’s wildly unsuccessful California ballot initiative in Spring 2006. The initiative — Prop 82 — proposed taxing California’s wealthiest residents and using the revenue to fund universal preschool programs. “An estimated 62 to 65 percent of California 4-year-olds now attend some form of preschool,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, “but the proposition’s backers said many of those programs are of low quality and would be replaced by better schools with more highly trained teachers.”

It warms the heart to know that Mamma Hillary, just like Papa Reiner, wants to round up all those little preschool-less tykes and stick them in a one-size-fits-all full or half day of public school with 20 or 30 other children. She cares that much about your children. Well, not your children, dear Hill reader. Your children are probably already in a pre-kindergarten program. Perhaps a private preschool program, like Montessori Schools, that focus on arts, music and the uniqueness of each child.

However, as with Reiner’s all-knowing ballot initiative, Hillary clearly doesn’t think those Montessori instructors (or those under-educated moms and grandmas who operate daycare programs) are qualified to teach 3- and 4-year-old children, which is why Mama Hillary’s proposal would require pre-kindergarten teachers to have a four-year college degree and training in early childhood development. This must have the teachers’ unions salivating at all the potential new (mandatory) recruits.

To justify the need for government-run pre-kindergarten programs, Team Clinton pushed around a study from Queens College that reports that if all the children in New York were enrolled in such programs, the state would save an estimated $828 million throughout their education from grades K-12. Sounds like the sort of report on which spending advocates pin their “for every dollar ‘invested’ in preschool, we get three back” theory. That’s such a ridiculous argument, but let’s go for it. Perhaps its Hillary’s way of balancing the budget: If we have a projected deficit of X, simply spend more on preschool and it will not only disappear, but it will increase revenues such that we may pave the streets with gold.

I’ll see Hillary’s report from Queens and raise her one from Berkeley. In the run-up to the Meathead Initiative, a very well-respected education policy analyisis organization, PACE, looked at preschool education. They saw some cognitive gain in the short term (which was the scope of their study), but also saw DECREASES in behavior as reported by both kindergarten teachers and parents. Do we as a society want even LESS well-behaved kids running around?

The PACE studies are here. If you scroll down, you’ll find these. I recommend the “narrative summary” and the “NICHD findings.”