Old Governors And Old Ideas

Mike Easley

I’m not sure why the good governor is getting involved, but past North Carolina governor, Mike Easley, has filed suit over changes to a program here – More at Four:

Raleigh, N.C. — Former Gov. Mike Easley, who created the More at Four early childhood education program more than a decade ago, has jumped into the legal battle over access to pre-kindergarten programs in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Supreme Court could hear the case as early as October, and Easley filed a brief Wednesday in support of wider access.

“These children, their young minds are perishable commodities,” Easley said Thursday.

Two years ago, Manning threw out legislative changes to the early childhood education program that limited access and required parents to pick up part of the cost. He ruled that North Carolina has a constitutional duty to provide pre-kindergarten to at-risk 4-year-olds.

Lawmakers later dropped those limitations, but as part of this year’s budget, they changed the definition of “at-risk” to reduce by half the number of children who would qualify for NC Pre-K, the state-run pre-kindergarten program that Republican lawmakers created to replace More at Four and the Smart Start program.

Easley said the state needs to invest more in early childhood education, not find ways to cut funding.

Interesting on three levels:

  1. An ex-governor, not a citizen, trying to shape legislation that he passed.
  2. This is an example of educational policy that doesn’t work.
  3. Eliminating programs that don’t work seems to be good policy.

On the one hand, as a citizen, Easley is free to file suit any way that he sees fit.  And for someone who cares about education, working hard to save a program that he created might make sense.

But it smells of politics.

As for the success of early education – the benefits fade away as the child grows up and slower students catch up:

Looking across the full study period, from the beginning of Head Start through 3rd grade, the evidence is clear that access to Head Start improved children’s preschool outcomes across developmental domains, but had few impacts on children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Providing access to Head Start was found to have a positive impact on the types and quality of preschool programs that children attended, with the study finding statistically significant differences between the Head Start group and the control group on every measure of children’s preschool experiences in the first year of the study. In contrast, there was little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.

Head Start had an impact on children’s language and literacy development while children were in Head Start. These effects, albeit modest in magnitude, were found for both age cohorts during their first year of admission to the Head Start program. However, these early effects rapidly dissipated in elementary school, with only a single impact remaining at the end of 3rd grade for children in each age cohort.

Not all money spent on education is spent well.  So the idea that reducing the spend on bad policy somehow represents an “attack on education” is insulting.

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