By Rob Roper
The House and Senate education committees got a preview of a report from the Agency of Education on Vermont’s pre-kindergarten program, the final version of which will be due in July. While there was not a lot of detail at this point, two interesting bits popped out as worth watching. One was that “research has found no or a limited relationship between educators’ level of education and child outcomes.” The other was that the best results were coming from the private childcare centers, not the public school based programs.
Asked by a committee member about why private centers were doing a better job than their public school counterparts, the presenters squirmed mightily in their attempts to find an acceptable sugar-coating of political correctness to suit the lawmakers’ pallets. None dared state the obvious: that the private sector, directly accountable to the customer, is always more efficient and delivers better results than a bureaucracy that is ultimately accountable to the politicians who fund it, not the customer.
These two issues are also interesting in their interrelation. The presenters noted that the public school programs, more often than not, compensated their staff more in salary and benefits than the private providers were able to, and therefore there is a worry that the public school programs would attract the most qualified teachers. If the research bears out, this is apparently not an issue. And, if both points bear out, perhaps it is a benefit to the private providers.
Vermont has been expanding “high quality” (defined by teacher education levels) taxpayer-funded pre-K programs run through the public school system since 2007 because our politicians felt that better educated, better paid public school teachers would do a better job than their private sector peers. At least according to the initial research, it doesn’t appear to be the case. I am pleasantly not surprised.