Targeting taxpayers: The Pre-K money grab
Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 12:15 am
By JANET O’NEILL
Here comes another money grab targeting taxpayers. Once again it arrives with the well used ploy of “the children and education.”
This latest attempt to pick citizens’ pockets was featured in an article highlighting Jim Cawley, former Bucks County commissioner and former lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. He’s the current president and chief executive Officer of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and he’s hawking the expansion of Pre-K state-sponsored programs for families unable to afford them. He claims, “Every dollar that is invested on a child between the ages of 3 and 5 is as much as $17 that we save later in that child’s life in one of two areas, corrections and welfare.”

Cawley’s efforts to sell this proposal appear to come with exaggerated expectations. The magnitude of achievement expected from the expansion of these programs sounds like a “cure-all snake oil” pitch.
The article also referenced a report presented by the Southeastern Pennsylvania district attorneys titled, “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids,” stating “the graduation rate is far higher for those who participated in quality early education programs.” The push behind these early learning programs is the conviction that they also will ultimately be a deterrent to crime. That reasoning suggests that underprivileged kids could have avoided becoming involved in crime by merely attending Pre-K.
All this time, was it really only the absence of Pre-K that would have guaranteed a lower crime rate? Cawley also expects us to believe that if Pre-K were in place, the long lists of welfare recipients would be considerably shorter.
Pre-K funding, or taxpayer babysitting as it should be rightly addressed, translates to even less time with mommy or, if he’s miraculously in the picture, daddy. Must the state assume even more financial responsibility for children of parents who fail to provide for their own?
His claims pose the question, were the billions of dollars that have been previously allocated to Philadelphia schools largely wasted without the saving grace of Pre-K? Are we supposed to believe that the addition of early learning programs will most definitely keep kids in school through 12th grade?
We do know that the disruption of unruly classrooms, the physical danger to teachers, the dire need for security and an often documented zeal for violence among students exists in city schools. Those issues call into question the validity of the diplomas handed out and how many of them are merely gifts?
Does Pre-K produce the power to eradicate all the other factors that have kept people mired in desperate circumstances? Will more years of early schooling resolve the problems of families absent male authority figures, home environments with a modicum of learning or a welfare system that finances the habitually mistake-ridden? Will all of those telltale signs of a lesser life disappear with Pre-K?
Instead of extracting more money from taxpayers wouldn’t it be wiser to use money already in the coffers and redirect it for the teaching of job skills and birth control education? These two things — the lack of skills and careless, unplanned pregnancies will forever keep people stagnated in poverty.
It is far from a convincing argument that the expansion of early education, particularly in the locales it targets, guarantees the experience of the child will promote a lasting effect on the adult that he/she becomes. The education system itself is not a cure-all for a deficient home life. On the contrary, a responsible family environment is a more significant indicator of success.
Instead of taxpayers endlessly picking up the slack and paying for the mistakes of others, wouldn’t it be kinder to teach them a skill from which they can draw pride and to also supply them with reproductive education? Make that a mandatory subject in schools. It’s a more urgent need than Pre-K.
Have all those impressive titles Mr. Cawley has acquired for himself led him to regard the public, en masse, as an entity with a foggy intellect? We know by now the political pickpockets will create more reasons to secure “alms for the poor” without actually helping them escape from deprived and depraved circumstances.
Janet O’Neill, Northampton, is a writer and advocate of human rights.

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