Critic lauds results of pre-K study, governor's office says too soon to rescale program

Monday, August 5, 2013 at 4:53pm

The legislature’s loudest critic of pre-K is pointing to a recent study as reason to reject suggestions of expanding the program statewide.

Vanderbilt University’s study released this month shows that initial gains by pre-K students over their peers who did not attend school under the program had diminished by the end of their kindergarten year or by first grade, and the gains were no longer statistically significant.

“If you do a cost-benefit analysis on this extremely expensive program, you will come to the conclusion that it is like paying $1,000 for a McDonald’s hamburger,” said Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) a staunch critic of the program. “It may make an initial dent on your hunger, but it doesn’t last long and you soon realize you could have done a lot more with the money spent.”

Dunn said he wants to see the state shift resources currently spent on pre-K elsewhere, like “having a great teacher in front of every classroom.” Dunn stopped short of saying those dollars should be used to increase teacher pay and said he was not prepared to specifically propose how those dollars should be spent.

The state’s pre-K program is geared toward low-income students. Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will rely on the results on the Vanderbilt study to help him decide whether to expand the program. On the federal level, President Barack Obama is proposing a “Preschool for All” program and is offering nearly $65 million to Tennessee to run the program if the state kicks in about $6.5 million.

“The governor continues to look forward to the final results of the long-term study” which are expected next year, said Dave Smith, the governor’s spokesman. “Until we know more about the effectiveness of pre-K in Tennessee, he will maintain funding at its current levels.”

6 Comments on this post:

By: bfra on 8/5/13 at 5:18

With Vanderbilt going down the tubes in so many catagories, why is Haslam depending on any study they did or are doing?

By: pswindle on 8/5/13 at 11:05

Pre-4 is a step in the right direction. The GOP is so against educating the masses. When children start to school that has never seen or eaten a chicken leg, believe me, Pre-4 is needed for so many reason, and not just for the ABC;s of it. The non-educators need to keep the hell of what they know nothing about. Pre-4 is such a shot in the arm for so many.

By: ancienthighway on 8/6/13 at 4:56

The federal government will kick in $65m and the state $6.5m. Haslam will push for it, find a way to divert a portion of the fed money, and still complain about the high taxes the Democrats require for all these social programs.

Fix what's in place already, then worry about giving kids a leg up if they can't keep up.

By: ohplease on 8/6/13 at 9:50

I'm not sure what the opponents of pre-K think that the children should be getting instead of this program. Leave early education to the families? Really? Every child from a well-off family I know is enrolled in a pre-K program, often as young as two, and the private ones are expensive. The children in the state-funded program are at least learning about being a part of a group, about hygiene, about things other than the ABC's, as pswindle says. In the many countries whose education systems are more successful than ours, children start to school -- in publicly funded schools -- very young.

By: pswindle on 8/6/13 at 12:31

Haslam needs the money for Hauffman and his Charter Schools in which his ex-wife is heavily involved. Haslam wants to get rid of this program because Gov. Bredesen started this needed program. This wimpy governor has a terrible agenda in destroying the life of the middle class, and giving a helping hand to his buddies.

By: BigPapa on 8/7/13 at 8:59

In other words, stupid people having stupid babies, that go on to be stupid kids, and even stupider (yeah I said that) adults.