The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 15, 2013

Investment worthwhile for state’s universal pre-K initiative

ENID, Okla. — President Barack Obama’s new budget is characterized as a political straddle, attempting to appease Democrats favoring higher taxes and enticing Republicans by slowing the growth of federal deficits.

The plan wipes out $1 trillion in spending cuts and calls for expanded spending for pre-K programs, The Associated Press reported.

Flashing back to the State of the Union, President Obama recognized Oklahoma pre-kindergarten teacher Susan Bumgarner for our state’s leadership in providing access to high-quality preschool for all children.

“I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,” Obama said Feb. 12.

“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children — like Georgia or Oklahoma — studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works.”

How that will happen remains to be seen. The Washington Post reported tobacco companies quickly attacked Obama’s proposal to fund universal preschool for 4-year-olds by doubling the federal tax hike on cigarettes.

The Wall Street Journal called the Oklahoma model “public preschool’s test case,” claiming expanded access showed benefits. However, some critics noted that academic gains lost ground by third grade.

As the Post notes, our universal pre-K initiative deserves recognition since becoming law in 1998.

While recent budget constraints have lowered pre-K’s per capita spending, the investment remains worthwhile.

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