A pilot progrma for pre-school vouchers is probably not the answer, though well-intended. Expanding Head Start, which was specifically designed for at-risk chlldren, is one answer that has proven to work. The urgency for using it is at hand because the poverty rate the nation faces now is worse than what it was in 1965 when the program began.
Lessons have been learned from Head Start since then and the national organization can support Indiana officials in creating programs specifically targeted for at-risk children. What’s more, there is federal funding available for Head Start programs that would defray the costs to Indiana taxpayers. If state and federal funding can be leveraged to provide greater opportunities for pre-school education for at-risk childrne, we all win. At-risk children have a better chance of succeeding. Taxpayers pay less for providing the program. Education budgets will most likely be saved millions in remediation costs, including mandatory summer school and retention.
Let’s not just serve a 1,000 children with a pilot program. Why not save every child who’s at-risk and get them off to the best start they can possibly have in elementary school by giving them a Head Start that millions of other American children like them already have.
One of the virtues we’ve heard about in this country for several years now is “leaving no child behind”. If we fail to act again to promote pre-school education through programs such as Head Start, we’re intentionally leaving the children who need help the most behind the rest of the population. We’re making it harder for them to succeed in school, to graduate, to get a job and to become self-sufficient citizens who are going to raise their own children some day.