Assembly Speaker John Gard has announced the creation of what he is calling a “Task Force to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of 4-K programs funded by the state.” I wonder if this latest “task force” is going to be a rubber stamp of the Republican desire to eliminate 4-K programs. What? John Gard create a “task force” with a predetermined outcome? Does anyone remember when he stacked the deck for his medical malpractice “task force” only to see them magically decide to punish victims of malpractice?
Wisconsin Republicans in the legislature have a long history of wanting to eliminate 4-K programs. Follow this simple timeline for just a taste of their recent history on the subject:
- During 2001-2004 budget deliberations Assembly Republicans wanted to eliminate 4-K programs. They finally reached a compromise that did not eliminate it but cut it by $14 million. After significant political pressure, Governor McCallum ended up restoring the cut funds through a veto.
- In 2003 the Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women set forth a number of resolutions including, “Elimination of Funding for Four-Year-Old Kindergarten.”
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last year that Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) co-chairman of the budget committee supported cuts to the 4-year-old kindergarten program. The story quoted him as saying, "I just worry about it being subsidized day care for certain children.”
- Just over this past weekend the Republican Party of Wisconsin adopted a resolution at their 2006 Convention calling for “the state legislature to eliminate funding of 4-year-old kindergarten.”
So Wisconsin Republicans have this history of threatening the 4-K program and now, before the ink on their resolution is dry, John Gard creates another “task force”? I do believe that I see some writing on the wall here.
Perhaps Gard isn’t paying attention or maybe I'm just being paranoid, but why else would he create a “task force” when the Department of Public Instruction recently released a detailed report on the K-4 program? I think that he may want to ignore that report because it demonstrates the many benefits of the program. Consider some of these benefits revealed in the report:
- Lower special-education placement
- Enhanced academic attainment
- higher probability of graduating from high school and/or college
- lower probability of involvement in criminal activities
- higher tax payments by participants
- lower reliance on welfare
One would think that these things would be music to his ears but perhaps John Gard is hung up on the costs of the 4-K program. If that is the case, we’re in luck! The report deals with this aspect as well by stating the following:
- The economic impact of investment in the program would offset 68% of the costs (for every dollar spent on the program, 68 cents would be returned in savings).
- The economic impact of investment when considering only the Milwaukee school district would be 76%. Again, that means that a whopping 76 cents of every dollar spent on 4-K in Milwaukee would be returned in savings!
I’d like to hear Gard name any other program that has such a massive return on investment as this one. When all is considered, the decision to expand the 4-K program should be a slam dunk shouldn’t it? So why the creation of another “task force”? I can’t read Gard’s mind but if the past is any indication, I’d like to send out a red alert to kindergarteners everywhere: Man your battle stations, John Gard is preparing to attack!