Educational Opportunity or City-Funded Daycare?

March 29, 2006 at 6:50pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Lincoln Board of Education has voted to phase in all-day kindergarten over the next few years. The move was in part a reaction to the increasing likelihood that the State will soon pass legislation requiring all-day kindergarten.

Proponents of all-day kindergarten talk up a number of purported benefits, such as improved educational performance, increased social interaction opportunities, and so on. On the first point, substantial educational performance improvements seem unlikely for most students since LPS is not updating any curricula in response to this change. Opponents of the new situation cite a wide range of reasons for their opposition, ranging from the practical (it’ll be awfully expensive) to the paranoid (the state is trying to inject even more of their propoganda into our children’s young minds).

I am mostly unswayed by many of the proponents’ arguments. I would rather have my children spend more time with me and The Missus, grandma and grandpa, or even a good daycare provider. The expected return on the taxpayers’ extra investment in my child’s education is way too small. On the other hand, the expected return from the investment on kids whose parents are either incompetent or unable to provide a solid educational foundation for their children is huge. The opponents’ arguments don’t do much for me either. With the exception of the economic costs involved, the down sides just don’t feel all that bad.

In other words, from a purely selfish point of view I consider all-day kindergarten to be a waste of time and resources, and I view the likely net effect on my children as near zero. (I’m assuming, for simplicity’s sake, that my children will not need extra services that the schools are better suited than I to provide.) From a broader point of view I think the net effect on the community’s children ranges from very slightly negative (just a handful of kids) to extremely positive (a sizeable minority of kids, with a heavy representation of low-income, first- and second-generation immigrant, and racial/ethnic minority kids). In the end I’m not certain how all of the costs and benefits shake out, but my gut instinct is that there is enough of a net benefit to the community to make all-day kindergarten worthwhile.

What really surprises me is how little public discussion has taken place on the topic. Coverage by the Lincoln Journal Star has been virtually nill (that I can recall), and the topic hasn’t generated much buzz in casual conversations. Are Lincolnites tired of talking about schools after the bond issue? Or did they just assume that all-day kindergarten was a fact, since it was an implicit part of the bond issue?

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