California Senate Majority Leader Don Perata is not getting it again. From his letter to Rob Reiner, who is heading the campaign, as reported in today’s Chron…
“I question if the billions of dollars mandated for preschool in Prop. 82 is equitable. Critics argue that Prop. 82 wouldn’t improve access to those who need it most: poor, disadvantaged and English learners,” Perata wrote. “Instead, the initiative would be a financial boon to families that already pay for their children’s preschool education.”
Means-testing is one of the classic arguments that consevatives use to argue against otherwise sound investments in society. There are two big problems with this: one, it adds considerably to the adminstrative costs, and two (even more problematic) is that it is a sure-fire way to set up a program to be starved for money later. Plenty of squeezed middle-class families in this state don’t have a few extra grand laying around to send their kids to preschool. The costs of helping the few families who can truly afford it easily are negligible compared to the security and positive impacts (fiscal and otherwise) universal preschool will provide over time.
The fact is that preschool increases the possibilities for kids to get to the higher level of symbolic thought they’re going to need to build and compete in today’s economy. Preschool is simply a good investment. There are some troubling things about the intiative as proposed, but the Senator’s opposition to it on these grounds may be penny wise but it is surely pound foolish.
To the Senator’s credit, he did defend First 5 from the politically motivated fire it’s been taking recently. The bill mentioned in the Chron’s story that would slash the advertising budget is foolish. What good is a preschool program if no one knows about it? This kind of positive shaping of cultural opinion is very much something the state should be engaged in.