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Is Early-Childhood Education Worth Spending Public Money?

There's no shortage of research touting the benefits of early-childhood education programs. But when it comes to justifying state spending for these programs, should hard proof be required to keep the money flowing?

That's the question that some Connecticut officials are posing as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposes spending another $4 million to expand the number of preschool seats in the state's poorest districts. That's on top of the $220 million that the state spends annually on preschool programs.

Apparently, the state has never compared the achievements of students who have attended preschool to those who have not, which Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor says is "astounding," according to a news report this week in The Connecticut Mirror.

Pryor says that while "it appears there is a strong correlation" between preschool and students' school performance, he has no way of assessing whether the state's program is working.

The state's education department did begin tracking student progress four years ago, including that of 9,000 4-year-olds in the state-funded preschools, the Mirror reports. Those children are now in 3rd grade.

But there has been no decision on conducting an analysis of whether attending preschool has made a difference in the academic performance of these kids. That doesn't make sense to some officials.

State Board of Education member Charles A. Jaskiewicz told his fellow members this week, "If we are going to push forward, then my opinion is we really need to look at whether it's working."

Sounds like a wise idea.

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