Carrico’s Attacks on Early Ed: A Pre-Thanksgiving Rebuttal
You’re entitled to have your opinions, but you’re not entitled to have your facts. And you’re certainly not entitled to take out ideological crusades on the most vulnerable members of society — particularly if they’ll have dangerous consequences for all of society. That’s why it’s so unsettling that Sen.-elect Bill Carrico (R-Independence) chose today — the day before Thanksgiving! — to attack early ed programs in Virginia. Here’s what he said:
“I’m all supportive of the K-12 program, but I have a problem with pre-K…. I think it’s time that parents who want to have children raise those children and the government don’t stand and create a babysitting operation for a 4-year-old to get a pre-K program.”
There is so much evidence that early education is a good investment it’s basically incontrovertible. A lot of brain development is complete before a child turns five years old. This means that if you can get to him or her early — if you can pour knowledge, creativity, values, and the values of striving - then you literally give them the gift of a lifetime. This applies equally across all social and economic spectra, but is particularly important for vulnerable kids — in dangerous environments, whose parents may not have the skills or capacity to teach them, whose neighborhoods and governments simply may be too weak to invest.
This is why early ed matters. As we’ve written about here at NDP, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) has successfully established and funded 28 Smart Beginnings programs across Virginia. These programs are showing proven results all around the Commonwealth, with the one in Danville an excellent example.
You can also see evidence from around the nation at the National Institute for Early Education Research. For instance, take these findings about a recent program in New Mexico:
The New Mexico PreK evaluation, from the 2008-2009 school year, finds positive impacts from the state-funded prekindergarten program for young children, consistent with previous findings. With statistically significant increases observed in vocabulary, math, and literacy scores for children participating in New Mexico PreK, the authors find New Mexico PreK is helping prepare young children for later school success.
To demonize these proven programs as a “babysitting operation” shows such a gross misunderstanding of their intent, their effect, and their proven benefits for all of societies that it would be laughable — were it not so dangerous. This is not about ideology — Sen.-elect Carrico’s personal feelings about government itself. It’s about results, evidence, and common sense.
There’s no mission more crucial to government than public education. Note that Carrico himself is a graduate of Chilhowie High School and Virginia Highlands Community College - both public institutions, supported with taxpayer dollars.
Attacks and caricatures are not the best way forward on this crucial issue, whether you’re a supporter or opponent of such investments. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let me just say that I hope that Sen.-elect Carrico will take a deep breath, ask his aides and activists for more facts about these programs, review the evidence about the benefits of early-ed programs both in Virginia and the nation — and, as we head into Session, reconsider his approach.