The politics of pre-school

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The richest man in North Carolina was in DC to demand even more taxpayer-funded preschool:

Jim Goodnight, the CEO of Cary software company SAS, spoke at a press conference in Washington Wednesday marking the roll out of bills that would expand voluntary preschool nationwide if they become law.

Goodnight urged Congress to pass the bills. Joining him were actress Jennifer Garner, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the lawmakers who introduced the bills – Sen Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and in the House, Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., the only congressional Republican who has declared support for the legislation so far.

“I’m the head of a company that receives 60,000 job applications every year,” Goodnight said. “Right now the top jobs in statistics, economics research and operations can take two years to fill because we simply can’t find people with the skills to do them.

OK. So. we’ve got the wealthiest man in North Carolina, a gazillionaire Hollywood actress who likely has her kids in some of the best private schools in the country, two commie-lib Democrats, and a clueless NY Republican cheerleading for this bill.  THAT info right there tells me the rest of us are in big trouble if this thing gets off the ground.

And what exactly does expanding government-funded preschool have to do with filling statistics and economic research jobs at SAS?  Even if there was a clear correlation, Goodnight is going to have to wait 20+ years to interview any of those kids for a job.  MORE:

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a statement: “We can all agree on the importance of ensuring children have the foundation necessary to succeed in school and in life. However, before investing in new federal early childhood initiatives, we should first examine opportunities to improve existing programs designed to help our nation’s most vulnerable children, such as Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant.”

Meanwhile, arguments are being heard in front of the NC Supreme Court as to whether North Carolina taxpayers should have to foot the bill for ANY and EVERY child whose parents want them in preschool.

Also, there are some findings that North Carolina families pay more for daycare / preschool / pre-K (over a TENTH of the family’s income!) than families in any other southern state and most of the country:

Children are a delight. They are our future. But sadly, hiring someone to take care of the noisy little bundles of love while you go to work is getting more expensive by the year. 

Earlier this month, the advocacy group Child Care Aware reported that the cost of enrolling an infant or toddler at a childcare center rose a bit under 3 percent in 2012, faster than the overall cost of living. There are now large swaths of the country, shown in grey shades below, where daycare for an infant costs more than a tenth of the median married couple’s income. In states like Oregon, New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts, it’s more than 15 percent.

This is not necessarily a new trend, but it is a somewhat puzzling one. According to the Census, the price of professional childcare has been rising since the 1980s. Yet during that time, pay for professional childcare workers has stagnated. As the Census points out, care givers actually make less today, in real terms, than they did in 1990. Considering that labor costs are responsible for up to 80 percent a day care center’s expenses, according to Child Care Aware, one would expect flat wages to have meant flat prices.

So who’s to blame for higher child-care costs? The government, I suspect.

Child care is a carefully regulated industry. States lay down rules about how many children each employee is allowed to watch over, the square footage centers need per child, and other minute details. And the stricter the regs, the higher the costs. If a center is required by law to have 25 square feet of space for every kid in a program, it can’t ever downsize its building when rents rise. If it has to hire a care giver for every two children, it can’t really achieve any economies of scale on labor to save money when other expenses go up.  A comparative case in point: in Massachusetts, where child care centers must hire one teacher for every three infants, the price of care averaged more than $16,000 per year. In Mississippi, where centers must hire one teacher for every five infants, the price of care averaged less than $5,000.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a state-by-state history of day-care-center regulations handy. But I wouldn’t be surprised if as the rules have become more elaborate, prices have risen. The tradeoff might be worth it in some cases; after all, the health and safety of children should probably come before cheap service. But certainly, it doesn’t seem to be an accident that some of the cheapest day care available is in the laissez faire South. 

It seems like the statists are practicing the same strategy with child care as they are with health care:  Make private alternatives so unwieldy and expensive that consumers run to the open arms of the government bureaucracy. 

2 thoughts on “The politics of pre-school

  1. Why are corporations so interested in “cookie cutter” education? I suggest readers look up John Dewey, the so called “father of American education” and read about what he saw as the role of public education. If you think it was to teach our children to be analytic thinkers, you would be very wrong. His idea of education consisted of creating a student that would benefit the State. If the student’s ideas about God and traditional family mores were destroyed along the say, so much the better.

    One needs to ask one simple question in regard to Jim Goodnight’s interest in Common Core. Why?

  2. Interesting that Jim Goodnight wants more FEDERAL funding. I guess if you have Jim and Good in your name, you MUST be required to think alike….in that both of them have made a LOT of money. My hat is off to their business acumen…..they certainly “Built IT”.

    I worked for Jim Goodmon’s grandfather (AJ of WRAL fame) and he was not exactly a card carrying liberal wanting socialism. He was the one that started running Jesse Helms’ “commentaries” to try to educate his viewers that “feeding at the federal trough would have consequences….”. I help tape a LOT of those sessions in college and talked to Mr. Helms and occasionally, Mr. A J.

    As to Jim Goodnight. Lest we not forget, he and his associates were NCSU Faculty members that were given total access to the “Computer Network”. NCSU was extremely “lucky” in that IBM in the RTP allowed them to have “run time” on their systems…..something that few universities had. I THINK it was because of the distance in that you could have dedicated “Lines” from West Raleigh to the RTP. The ability (without fiber optics….that was not even a gleam in Al Gore’s technosavvy eyes then) to had dedicated high speed communication lines over a seemingly “short” distance made NCSU the recipient of unlimited computer resources.

    SO, Jimmy Goodnight and company started doing “Computerized” Statistical Data Base Analysis. Came up with that catchy name, SAS, and then got some venture capital money and walked away with the CODE. NCSU never made them sign an agreement or get a royalty for the CODE that was developed while on the faculty and doing “research”. If you understand what SAS really does, it is purely “data mining” and “relational data bases”. Then you throw in some statistical tests to verify that the data will be “statistically” correct.

    About the SAME time that SAS was exploding, the manufacturing world was ballyhooing the work of another Statistician, DEMING. Deming was the person that IKE assigned to oversee the rebuilding of Japan. He is a hero there….of was. He finally got recognition by the Big Three Auto companies when they started losing market share to the young whiper snappers from Japan. THEN the big Three DECREED, all auto suppliers shalt have Deming Statistical Process Control systems.

    SAS never quite tapped into that market, but the increased use of statistics in data mining and process control and production control and inventory and marketing systems and the total integration of same took off. Oracle is an example.

    SO….back on point. Jimmy Goodnight would NOT be where he is without all the “CODE” that he developed at NCSU and NCSU would be the richest university in the world if it were getting a royalty from that.

    Why is it that the folks that have made it and built it want to embrace the government to do things that they could not.

    I can state, based on personal observations while working at WRAL that standard accounting practices were not followed. A J drove a Thompson Caddy as did his wife and also Fred and his wife. These car were NEVER reported as “income” or taxed and they were “tradeout’s”….GIVEN directly (perhaps NEVER titled) to AJ and company for running “free” spots. No MONEY every changed hands. We could predict when someone was getting a NEW Caddy by reading the Commercial Logs in the Control Room….when we started blitzing Thompson ads, someone was getting a new ride.

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