One of the signature fads of the Obama Era is "Universal Preschool." A new book, Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut, by veteran education pundit Chester E. Finn Jr., explains the political sleight of hand involved:
Most have opted to pursue the ”universal” model–prekindergarten for every four-year-old is their campaign slogan– rather than seeking more intensive intervention services targeted on a far smaller group of acutely disadvantaged children. Although the moral energy of the ”universalists” derives from the claim that such a program will close educational gaps between America’s haves and have-nots, their political strategy rests on the belief that enacting and funding any such program depends on mobilizing the self-interest of middle-class families who would welcome government-financed day care and an early educational advantage for their own kids. (The flaws in this approach reverberate through the following pages.) ...
Although it serves enormous numbers of small children, today’s ragged armada of day care and preschool operators and programs, with their variegated eligibility requirements, uneven quality standards, and twisted funding streams, dismays advocates whose strategy hinges on propagating identical, universal programs designed to appeal to millions of parents and voters. That strategy relies on gaining the political boost that comes from offering John Q. and Sally Z. Public, both of them now working, the prospect that somebody else will pay for their child care, creating a new middle-class entitlement to government-financed services for their four- (and maybe three-) year-olds, wrapped in much hype about school readiness and social justice for the poor.
Okay, now I get it!
The Obamanauts' have a multilayered set of reasons for pushing Universal Preschool.
On the high-minded surface, the idea is that since No Child Left Behind has failed to close the racial gaps by pushing K-12 education, then the problem must stem (must) with pre-K years. All other possibilities are unthinkable! Therefore, having logically proven that the racial gaps are caused by disparate treatment before outside of the K-12 experience, the only solution is to spend a lot of government money taking poor black children away from their crack-addict mothers and their moms' knucklehead ex-con boyfriends and have them raised by nice white ladies for as much of each 24 hour cycle as possible.
Oops, did I say that out loud? You are only supposed to think that last part! You are supposed to say something about "offering society's most vulnerable children an enriched learning experience," and everybody will automatically get the message about taking the poor black children away from crack and abusive step-babydaddies and the rest.
But the next layer is that the Obamanauts know that although no alternative points of view are expressible in polite society, most voters still aren't all that excited about paying higher taxes for welfare moms' children. And more Head Start for poor children isn't expensive and expansive enough for what they want to accomplish.
So, one of the real goals is to change the work v. stay-at-home-with-the-kids economic calculus for married women with children. See, from the Democrats' point of view, stay at home married moms are The Enemy. They identify strongly with their husbands' economic interests.
Consider two couples. In one, both spouses earn $50k, while in the other, the husband earns $100k while the wife stays at home to raise their small children. In the United States, both couples pay the same federal income tax because they "file jointly." The couple with the working wife is typically worse off because they have to pay for child care. So, in the U.S., the wife's incentives are to support her husband's career and share his views opposing high taxes, government regulation, and the like.
The long range goal is the Swedenification of America, although that will require a much more radical step than is currently feasible — reducing or eliminating the joint filing privilege. See, in Sweden, the couple where both spouses make $50k is much better off than the couple where the husband makes $100k, because, in a land of high and steeply progressive marginal tax rates, people are more or less taxed on their individual incomes. (That's a simplification, but that gets the gist of it — see this Encyclopedia Britannica article). And daycare is free.
That's why you see in Sweden lots of ladies who drop their kids off at the government daycare center X each morning, then drive to government daycare center Y to take care of other ladies' kids who are working at a government daycare center Z taking care of the kids of the workers at government daycare center X.
Moreover, private daycare centers are The Enemy, too. Many have religious affiliations. And there is too large a supply of women who like to work with children for pay to be high under free market conditions of supply and demand. They must be replaced by government employees who pay dues into politically powerful unions who will negotiate with Democratic politicians elected by government employee union muscle.