US can’t afford to fund more free preschool

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The nation has a debt problem and needs to get its spending under control.

Yet, Sen Patty Murray, D-Wash., and 10 other lawmakers are pushing a plan to spend $34 billion in the next five years to pay for free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.

The Strong Start for America’s Children Act would pay for voluntary preschool for kids from households with up to twice the poverty level ($47,100 for a family of four), would raise education requirements for preschool teachers and would help boost their pay to parity with K-12 teachers, according to The Seattle Times.

Preschool is clearly important. It’s been proven children who attend preschool are better prepared to learn when attending elementary school.

However, the federal government will have to borrow more money to fund this ambitious program.

That’s not the way many of those — too many — in Congress see it.

They prefer to come up with scenarios in which a specific tax or the shifting of funds “pays” for the program. Such things don’t pay for the program, loans do.

The nation already spends more each year than it collects in taxes — it’s called annual deficit spending. So until the nation is no longer borrowing for the operation of government, new programs are financed with borrowed money.

The government must establish priorities on what it can and can’t afford. The national debt is now more than $17 trillion and the nation paid $220 billion in interest on that debt in 2012.

Every whim cannot be funded. Not funding preschool for moderate-income families is not mean spirited, it’s facing America’s fiscal reality. The country has more pressing needs, starting with getting debt under control.

In addition, funding education is not a federal responsibility. That falls to the states.

But Congress and presidents over the years have inserted themselves into education because it’s warm and fuzzy. Education focuses on kids, and who can be against kids?

The Constitution prohibits the federal government from mandating education policy, but Congress gets around that by using funding to buy influence. If states or individual school districts agree to the stipulations of a federal program, they get the money.

Washington state has programs to fund preschool for low-income families as does the federal government. About 20 percent of 4-year-olds and 9 percent of the 3-year-olds receive free preschool either through the state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program or federal Head Start.

The United States can’t afford to expand free preschool,

Murray, who was a co-chairperson of the Super Committee that was assigned to trim federal spending over the next 10 years, should understand this.

Then again, the Super Committee failed miserably because it could not establish spending priorities.

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