Preskool Math: 200-400 percent return on investment unlikely


Proposition 82, the Meathead's universal preschool plan for California, appears to be headed for approval in next week's election, but before class is dismissed, the Reason Foundation takes a closer look at this ballot initiative's central justification: the RAND Corporation's March 2005 study The Economics of Investing in Universal Preschool Education in California. In their study Is Universal Preschool Beneficial?, San Jose State University profs Christopher F. Cardiff and Edward Stringham critique the "deeply and fatally flawed" RAND study for assuming unseen benefits, downplaying costs based on phantom data, ignoring contrary evidence, and best of all projecting that Prop 82 will generate "between $2 and $4 in benefits for every dollar expended." Here's a more grim version of the same story:

Where today's non-government preschools, many of them family-owned and operated, constitute 45 percent of the market, the RAND study predicts that most private providers will disappear if the government assumes responsibility for preschool. The vast variety of preschools found in communities across the state would be replaced by a monolithic, one-size-fits-all system designed, controlled, and funded by a statewide bureaucracy—the same bureaucracy that already fails students at the K-12 level. The options available in the private preschool market would wither, with almost 90 percent of children going to state-operated facilities and 10 percent going to private schools, mostly catering to the elite.

Reason's study here. The original RAND study here. Rob Reiner's decline and fall here. Reason's previous raspberries to the Meathead here, here, here, here, and here.