Federal Legislation
February 19, 2009

H.R. 702—Providing Resources Early for Kids (“PRE-K”) Act

Action Requested:
No action is requested at this time. HSLDA will continue to monitor this bill and will send out an action e-lert if the bill comes up for a hearing.

Summary:
The PRE-K Act creates a national program for early education and “child development.” Designed to support a full-day program, this legislation would create a voluntary pre-K program for all children from birth to kindergarten entry.

Status:

1/27/2009Introduced and referred to House Committee on Education and Labor

Sponsor: Rep. Mazie K.Hirono (HI)

Cosponsors: H.R. 702 has 70 cosponsors.

Bill Summary and Status H.R. 702

HSLDA’s Position:
Oppose.

Talking Points:

This bill opens up the door for politically correct curricula.

  • In Section 5, H.R. 702 declares that early education is not intended for the year before kindergarten, but from birth up to kindergarten entry.1 The bill’s target on the “social,” “emotional,” and “physical development”2 of the child (established under sections 2 and 4) leaves the educational system wide open for politicization and abuse as these vague criteria are implemented.
  • H.R. 702 requires “mental health screenings”3 and “culturally appropriate” material.4 These subjective mandates would be left open for interpretation by the federal government. Furthermore, a blank check is given for any state to seize the program and run with it, tailoring the program toward its own politically correct curriculum.

This bill institutionalizes children from birth.

  • Although the bill allows for “parent involvement,”5 parental authority over content is severely undermined. Section 6(d), in fact, requires a full-day academic program—establishing the same standards from infancy that are expected of high schoolers.
  • In the largest study on child care and development, conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers found that the more time children spent in child care, the more likely their sixth-grade teachers were to report behavioral problems. In a press release regarding the study, researchers said, “parenting quality was a much more important predictor of child development than was type, quantity, or quality, of child care.”6

The “voluntary” nature of this program is not straightforward.

  • Although pre-K advocates point out that these programs are voluntary, many parents may be unaware of their options, and may fear that refusal could lead to government intrusions in the future.
  • Section 6 of the bill, in fact, targets the program uniquely toward low-income and non-English-speaking groups, who are more reliant on government services, less free to decline the government's terms for aid, less aware of their rights, and historically vulnerable to the abuse of their rights by social workers.8

Early education’s effects are insignificant, and fade away beyond elementary school.

  • Rebecca Marcon, a researcher from the University of North Florida, explains, “Children’s later school success appears to be enhanced by more active, child-initiated learning experiences. Their long-term progress may be slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduce formalized learning experiences too early for most children’s developmental status.”9
  • Likewise, a 2007 report published by the Goldwater Institute examines test scores, and finds that Arizona kindergarten programs initially improve learning but have no measurable impact on reading, math, or language arts test scores by fifth grade.10
  • As far back as 1987, research has supported the conclusion that pre-K’s “success” is short-term and insignificant. When Head Start (the primary initiative of early education already in existence) was evaluated by a study from the Department of Health and Human Services, the evaluators concluded, “Head Start children performed slightly (but non-significantly) better on achievement tests than their non-Head Start peers up to third grade, but there was no difference on achievement test scores from third to sixth grade.”11
  • Despite the evaporation of the program’s positive-but-negligible effects, H.R. 702 authorizes $1 billion for its early education program.

Conclusion: H.R. 702 affronts the need children have for mothers and fathers to raise and care for them in their early years of development. In the end, “parental involvement” is no substitute for real parenting.

Notes

1. H.R. 702, §5(b)(16)

2. H.R. 702, §2(2), §4(a)(1)(A)(i)(VI) and (VIII)

3. H.R. 702, §6(b)(8)(B)

4. H.R. 702, §5(b)(11)

5. H.R. 702, §6(b)(8)(C)

6. Belskey, Jay Ph.D. “Early Child Care Linked to Increases in Vocabulary, Some Problem Behaviors in Fifth and Sixth Grade,” NIH News, March 26, 2007.

7. H.R. 702, §6(b)(3), §6(d)(1)

8. Berg, Insoo Kim. Building Solutions in Child Protective Services (New York: Norton 2000), 24.

9. Marcon, Rebecca. “Moving up the Grades: Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success,” Early Childhood Research and Practice, Spring 2002.

10. EducationNews.org: All-Day Kindergarten Failing as Education Reform; Putting Arizona Education Reform to the Test: School Choice and Early Education Expansion: The executive summary; The full Goldwater Study.

11. Elkind, David. “Making Healthy Educational Choices,” Miseducation: Pre-schoolers at Risk, 1987.

 Other Resources

The Heritage Foundation: “Does Universal Preschool Improve Learning? Lessons from Georgia and Oklahoma”

Smother Mother Strikes Again: Why Government Should Stay out of Pre-K

Cato Institute: “The Poverty of Preschool Promises Saving Children and Money with the Early Education Tax Credit” ( requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)