Welcome to Atlanta, Mr. President. Now about pre-k . . .

President Barack Obama is expected in Atlanta today, to pitch a problem to a solution.

No, I don’t have that backward.

The president’s planned visit today to a Decatur pre-k school comes on the heels of his lauding Georgia’s preschool program during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. He wants to use it as a model for a federal effort “to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.”

While I join Obama in applauding educational innovation in the states, I can think only of reasons a federal preschool program is a bad idea. Not least is the fact that the existing federal preschool program, Head Start, has been declared a failure by the very agency that administers it.

Head Start, a program for low-income children, has been around since 1965. But three years ago, after four and a half decades and $166 billion spent on the program, the Department of Health and Human Services concluded first-graders who had been in Head Start held virtually no advantage over their peers who hadn’t.

It’s an expensive failure, costing more than $7.5 billion per year to serve fewer than 1 million kids. At $7,838, Head Start’s cost per student in 2011 nearly doubled the $4,302 Georgia spent on each pre-k student that year.

But if Georgia is getting better results at roughly half the price, shouldn’t we want to see its model copied in other states?

Maybe so. Or maybe other states have different needs. Either way, they won’t match our success — and we won’t maintain it — if the feds take over pre-k.

As U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss put it to me last month: “There are too many people in Washington who are entrenched in the idea that if the federal government’s going to be involved in a program, we need to control it. And the way you control it is with money.”

Chambliss was talking about obstacles to devolving federal programs such as k-12 education and Medicaid to the states. But this fact of life in Washington is also a certain preview of how pre-k will turn out if it’s federalized.

There will be money, but also strings: regulations, stipulations, expectations. Even in Georgia the program won’t look like it does now, because the feds will craft policies for Savannah and Seattle, and everywhere in between. Successive agency heads for the program will want to put their stamps on it, if only to justify their jobs and budgets.

And, as clearly as Georgia’s elected leaders should see this coming, they’ll be hard-pressed to avoid it. The money will be too hard to pass up.

Georgia spends about one-third of its lottery proceeds on pre-k, about $312.4 million in next year’s projected revenues. The rest goes to the HOPE scholarship. How tempting will it be for a Georgia governor one day, if the value of HOPE continues to shrink relative to the cost of tuition, to take the federal pre-k dollars and devote all lottery revenues to college students?

But it will be fool’s gold, and not only because there’s no such thing as “free money” from the feds since taxpayers foot the bill sooner or later.

There’s also this: Those folks who rate government programs chiefly by how much money we spend on them will declare this a good deal — at first. Eventually, though, they’ll bemoan the falling quality of pre-k in Georgia and beseech Atlanta or Washington to cough up more money so that it can regain the effectiveness it once had … back when it was a cheaper, state-run program.

Washington this year is projected to borrow $7 billion (almost the annual cost of Head Start) every three days. Yet, Democrats and some Republicans are wringing their hands about the so-called sequester budget cuts that would trim that figure by barely one-tenth. So, you’d think this is exactly the wrong time for the feds to take on yet another role the states have proven themselves capable of handling.

That Obama is holding up Georgia’s pre-k program as a reason for Washington to get more involved in pre-k, rather than as evidence the states can handle more roles the feds can’t afford, shows just how backward he has it.

– By Kyle Wingfield

Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

418 comments Add your comment

Aynie Sue

February 14th, 2013
5:53 am

States are corrupt dysfunctional political institutions that may occasionally stumble upon “pilot programs” that are worthy of extension. But 50 states with 50 bureaucracies and 50 sets of rules is no way to administer anything of value.

Kyle’s mistrust of federal administration is a deeply embedded prejudice, not a well thought out observation. Improving education for America’s children, especially for those in third-world states like Alabama and South Carolina, can only be done by the national government.

blahblahblah

February 14th, 2013
6:08 am

“That Obama is holding up Georgia’s pre-k program as a reason for Washington to get more involved in pre-k, rather than as evidence the states can handle more roles the feds can’t afford, shows just how backward he has it.”

This all day.

Stephenson Billings

February 14th, 2013
6:35 am

Aynie Sue, a glaring example of the increasing inept education system…

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 14th, 2013
6:35 am

if only to justify their jobs and budgets.

Sadly true. The last thing on obozo’s mind is the welfare of the children. It’s just another power grab and another way to grow the federal government. How many buildings in DC will have to be built to administer this new bureaucracy? How many mindless, whining pinkos will inhabit these new gigantic buildings? Will each pinko need his own department? What can we have the IRS do to “help?”

What kids?

Cappycat

February 14th, 2013
6:51 am

Aesop, Pinko??? Save us from people who still use these terms.

Cherokee

February 14th, 2013
7:02 am

“Not least is the fact that the existing federal preschool program, Head Start, has been declared a failure by the very agency that administers it.”

Intereesting Kyle that you don’t link to the study itself. Your links are to an article by the very conservative Cato Institute, and Joe Klein? Very convenient that they agree with your innate distrust of the federal government.

An honest commentator would link to the study itself, then ask his readers to make their own decision, instead of just tossing out red meat for those who hate all things Obama – or obozo – as our self appointed “Christian” scold loves to call him.

Cutty

February 14th, 2013
7:22 am

I doubt Kyle will reprimand Stephenson for his personal post at Sue. Kyle is such a snarky lad. Name on federal program that republicans have ended? The control the executive and legislative branches of government during W’s pain, I mean reign. How did they limit the size of government?

Did Saxby introduce one bill to this effect?

Wingfield has nothing left but to complain about anything Obama does, period. Just like his party, no solutions just complain like old, white men do about how their country USED to be.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 14th, 2013
7:24 am

The lamestream media doesn’t report that a government program is failing so it must not be failing, there’s some deep logic at work.

Mary Elizabeth

February 14th, 2013
7:30 am

I am glad that President Obama has placed value and focus, nationally, on the importance of pre-k education for all students. That program is a primary way in which to create more educational parity among students.

President Obama complimented Georgia in regard to its pre-k program in national, and perhaps even worldwide, broadcasts of his State of the Union Address. Georgia’s politicians should, as the President rightly stated, place priority upon the national interests more than upon partisan interests. It would be helpful to students, and to Georgia’s citizens as a whole, if Georgia’s Republican politicians would stop resisting almost every program which the President initiates. To obstruct his intiatives, in behalf of all Americans, for partisan reasons appears to be petty, and even destructive, in the eyes of many.

Welcome to Georgia, Mr. President. Thank you for highlighting the need for pre-k programs in Georgia and throughout our nation.

gm

February 14th, 2013
7:37 am

Thank you Mr. President for even having a planned visit to kyle and confederate country, no matter what you do to in trying to improve these gomers in Georgia it is always something negative. These gomers dont care about education they only care about blacks playing football at UGA.

I bet if the President was comming to honor UGA football team Kyle and the right nut jobs would be lining up to praise that, never mind some of those black kids at UGA football program cant read and Pre K builds a foundation.

Aquagirl

February 14th, 2013
7:42 am

Intereesting Kyle that you don’t link to the study itself. Your links are to an article by the very conservative Cato Institute, and Joe Klein?

You expected an actual link to the study? BWAH! Kyle doesn’t want melted brains all over his blog.

Numbers-R-US

February 14th, 2013
7:46 am

Since 2000, federal funding for No Child Left Behind has increased 73 percent, but student achievement has remained flat. We’re just not getting enough bang for our buck: American high school students, who spend approximately 1,000 hours in school each year, are being outperformed in math and science by Polish high school students, who spend just 595 hours in high school per year.

The bottom line–if it doesn’t work, get rid of it. NCLB doesn’t work. That said, the failure of one program is hardly justification for not striving for a better life for our offspring. Oh no! The lure of a tax cut is needed to accomplish that goal.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 14th, 2013
7:52 am

I guess these libs don’t know how to open Kyle’s link, so I help them -

Even the best-intentioned programs are allowed to languish in waste and incompetence. Take, for example, the famed early-education program called Head Start.

It is now 45 years later. We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is in-di-spu-ta-ble evidence about the program’s effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work.

These results were so shocking that the HHS team sat on them for several years, according to Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution, who said, “I guess they were trying to rerun the data to see if they could come up with anything positive. They couldn’t.” – Time Magazine

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

February 14th, 2013
7:54 am

Hey, what was that silver thing Boehner had in front of him during the speech? Looked like a set of salt and pepper shakers.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

February 14th, 2013
7:58 am

take the federal pre-k dollars and devote all lottery revenues to college students?

BINGO! We have a winner. Speaking as someone with a 14 year old.

Aquagirl

February 14th, 2013
7:59 am

Aesop, you may need “lamestream media” to grind up science and put it on a wittle-bitty spoon so the choo-choo train can go whoot! whoot! and feed your little brain all up!

The rest of us don’t.

Maybe pre-K would have helped you but it’s too late now. Maybe you should be included in the President’s visit schedule as a comparison case.

Del

February 14th, 2013
8:00 am

Just another example of Obama’s big government mentality. This is the most radical minded president since FDR.

midtowwn

February 14th, 2013
8:02 am

Straw men, straw men everywhere.

sailfish

February 14th, 2013
8:04 am

kyle

How can pre-k be turned sour by any type of funding? I mean really, talk about an argument that has clay feet. A young mind of only 48 months or so being exposed to reading, writing, alphabet how is money going to corrupt that? Ridiculous.

bookman parrot

February 14th, 2013
8:04 am

gov’t … please do everything for me … wipe my nose, kiss my backside, … give me money …

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

February 14th, 2013
8:12 am

I can think only of reasons a federal preschool program is a bad idea.
————————-

A blasphemy against Dear Leader and liberal fascism!

rwcole

February 14th, 2013
8:12 am

Once again, Kyle, if you read the comments posted here, how can you not feel like you are on the team of stupid, not to mention mean and unchristianlike? Still waiting for a response.

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:15 am

there’s no such thing as “free money” from the feds

Well, not if you’re a prole. If you’re a bankster, there is plenty of it.

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

February 14th, 2013
8:17 am

put it on a wittle-bitty spoon so the choo-choo train can go whoot! whoot! and feed your little brain all up…Maybe pre-K would have helped you but it’s too late now.

—-

rwcole: Kyle, if you read the comments posted here, how can you not feel like you are on the team of stupid, not to mention mean and unchristianlike?

—————————————-

You were saying?

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

February 14th, 2013
8:19 am

If you’re a bankster, there is plenty of it.
—————-

One difference: the banksters (well, except GM’s financial arm) paid theirs back. The Obozo receptacle “takers” never do.

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:19 am

I ctrl-F’d this piece, and did not see the words “civilized nations.”

as in, “when do civilized nations begin to publicly fund their children’s educations”?

Shouldn’t that be a question we should be asking?

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:20 am

The Obozo receptacle “takers”

Please ride that fabulous talking point to victory in 2014 and 2016, GOP. It is a winner.

Aquagirl

February 14th, 2013
8:20 am

Still waiting for a response.

Don’t hold your breath, his general response to his slympitters is “not my problem, and besides, my comment section would be empty.”

http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2013/02/11/debate-about-gay-members-unlikely-to-end-well-for-scouts/?cp=2#comment-183784

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:22 am

By the way, phone guy, those “takers” do this thing called “working,” or “labor,” if you like–generally for lousy, artificially depressed wages. I don’t expect you to be able to do the kind of math required to understand that the banksters benefit from that, along with all their lovely fluffy free money.

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

February 14th, 2013
8:23 am

stands for decibels: “when do civilized nations begin to publicly fund their children’s educations”? Shouldn’t that be a question we should be asking?
——————

Go ahead and ask. Georgia is already doing it, and without federal taxpayer money.

Obozo: Traveling to a state that’s already fixed the “problem” he’s pretending to solve, and without his help. Moron.

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

February 14th, 2013
8:25 am

the banksters benefit from that
———————–

The banksters also PAY for the resources they use. The Obozo receptacle takers do not.

Whatever

February 14th, 2013
8:26 am

Aynie,

What is the federal government doing so well and under budget that we’d want them to expand?

Once they have their budget under control I’d love to listen to what they have to say. Until then it’s a joke. There is not money to fund anything.

BW

February 14th, 2013
8:27 am

Kyle

While I can see your point about the President being pro-government, we know that already. The Republican party is as well. There is no real dichotomy between the two parties when it comes to big government solutions.

BoneHead

February 14th, 2013
8:27 am

Aynie Sue;

Are you on drugs? The federal government can’t balance a checkbook, make a budget, and spends twice as much as it takes in, do you see a problem there?

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:30 am

Washington this year is projected to borrow $7 billion (almost the annual cost of Head Start) every three days. Yet, Democrats and some Republicans are wringing their hands about the so-called sequester budget cuts that would trim that figure by barely one-tenth. So, you’d think this is exactly the wrong time for the feds to take on yet another role the states have proven themselves capable of handling.

Well you would, if you believed the Beltway nonsense that there is some kind of “deficit crisis” — that, blessedly, the rest of the country appears to be rejecting.

I think you guys who continue to do this hand-wringing (and I include Dems here, including the skinny black guy in the White House, don’t get me wrong) have worked that long con long enough. We are not going broke. Pay for stuff we need and get people working again, and educated properly, for crying out loud.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

February 14th, 2013
8:33 am

the banksters (well, except GM’s financial arm) paid theirs back

LOL, riiight. We still don’t even know where a big chunk of the money went.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

February 14th, 2013
8:34 am

The federal government can’t balance a checkbook, make a budget, and spends twice as much as it takes in, do you see a problem there?

In what world do you live? We appear to still be the top dog on the world stage. I don’t see a problem.

BoneHead

February 14th, 2013
8:36 am

Aynie Sue;

Ok, one more look, Obozo and his cronies gave almost 900 million to friends in companies that went bankrupt in less than a year, but ever executive got millions in bonuses…Then the banks that caused a housing meltdown are bailed out with taxpayer monies, and all got bonuses for all their “good” work. Even better the unions, who are only less than 8% of the population, get taxpayer bailouts so they can keep their pension plan and benefits paid for by the other 92% of the population….Oh wait then there is the social security funds that somehow made it into the general funds, exactly where it was NOT supposed to be, now it is running out of funds…. So tell me again why we should trust the federal government?

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

February 14th, 2013
8:36 am

By the way, phone guy, those “takers” do this thing called “working,” or “labor,” if you like

Phone guy just has no respect for our military personnel, the elderly, the young, the mentally retarded, etc.

Just me me me me me me me me me me me…..

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:37 am

Georgia is already doing it, and without federal taxpayer money.

Is that supposed to be worn like a badge of honor?

Why should anyone care if a program is funded locally or from the Feds?

Weird, weird obsessions some have. I guess I could try to figure it out, but I gave up trying long ago.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

February 14th, 2013
8:38 am

So tell me again why we should trust the federal government?

If you can’t trust or respect your own government, why do you continue to live here? Surely there is another country more to your liking?

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

February 14th, 2013
8:40 am

Why should anyone care if a program is funded locally or from the Feds?

Its the control thing. Once the Feds start throwing money around they want to control the program so they set up a program that is supposed to work exactly the same in all 50 states but we know only a few of the 50 states are anything like another state. I can see the argument here.

bu2

February 14th, 2013
8:41 am

Based on how Georgia keeps sinking in the educational rankings, has the pre-K program been a success? Have there been any studies that show it has done any better than Head Start? I knew idealistic people who worked in Head Start in the 70s who thought it was a collosal failure. It just takes the government a long time to figure things out.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 14th, 2013
8:41 am

Kyle – Why do you associate your self with government workers who use your blog to promote their cronyism and corruption? Are you a crony too? You should immediately ban any of these people, there are easy to spot, and open this blog up to discussions that aren’t weighted down with whiny little anti American diaper fillings. When will I get an answer?

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

February 14th, 2013
8:42 am

There is no real dichotomy between the two parties when it comes to big government solutions.
——————-

Which part of the federal government are Republicans currently working to expand?

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:42 am

Even better the unions

Oh FFS.

If anyone knows about how civilized countries handle early education and wants to share I’ll be back to have a look. Otherwise, pleasant day to all.

rwcole

February 14th, 2013
8:45 am

I think the questions we should all be asking is, ” Does Lil Barry have a job? Or a life? Or is Kyle really Lil Barry?” I’ve never seen the two of them together. Kyle obviously agrees with the hate Barry spews here every day and Barry obviously thinks trolling the AJC blog is his job so….. This inquiring mind would like to know.

stands for decibels

February 14th, 2013
8:47 am

Which part of the federal government are Republicans currently working to expand?

Why, the all important monitoring of lady parts.

/drive-by

indigo

February 14th, 2013
8:52 am

A country’s leadership that truly cared for the future would spare no expense in caring for its most precious asset, children.

As much as is possible, every child would get good parenting, schools, healthcare and safety.

College and trade schools would be avaliable, at no cost, to every high school graduate.

This would, as much as possible, insure that every child could grow up to be all they can be.

Because selfishness and greed rule in America’s ruling circles, you may be sure the above will never happen.

MarkV

February 14th, 2013
8:53 am

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dusty!

May you feel today as happy as if the national debt had been paid off.