Bill Crawford has recently written several pieces on how to best train Mississippi’s work force. He makes his point by using the research generated by the Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. James Heckman, who has shown that the greatest return on investment (ROI) in educating the workforce of the future is through high quality early childhood education. I suppose Grant Callen missed that memo since he has now pronounced that pre-kindergarten programs are an entitlement, and not the core of high quality education for children in the state who we hope someday will be productive workers.
Pre-K is an entitlement. Just not the type of entitlement Mr. Callen is trying to disparage. High quality early childhood education is a work force investment tool that is what all Mississippians are entitled to receive. The 13:1 ROI when reviewing life events over time cannot be ignored, especially by Mr. Callen, who has no research of this caliber to support his opinion. The newest data from Professor Heckman and colleagues finds a 13 percent ROI for comprehensive, high-quality, birth-to-five early education. This research analyzes a wide variety of life outcomes, such as health, crime, income, IQ, schooling, and the increase in a mother’s income after returning to work due to childcare.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, a report released in 2017 shows the second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools. Numerous research reports on school choice that have been generated by all types of think tanks still cannot make the argument for the connection between choice and massive improvements in student outcomes. For Mr. Callen to try to confuse the two issues is an old trick designed to divide and conquer. This time, the data is not there to support his entitlement claim, other than to say, all children in our state are entitled to a high quality early childhood education. It is the way to support workforce development and keep Mississippi brain power at home.
Mr. Callen writes “School choice is not a silver bullet, but it offers the most promise for the least money and the least amount of effort.” In my opinion, that statement is the best reason anyone could give for dismissing the entire voucher movement. Education does require effort. Education does require money. If Mr. Callen did not think so, he would not have worked to appropriate more funds for vouchers per child to use for choice than the amount the state was willing to fund per pupil for public schools.
» DR. CATHY GRACE is the Co-Director of The Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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