| February 15, 2011

Entitlements gone wild!

Kudos to state Rep. Leslie Osborn for trying to bring some fiscal discipline to the OHLAP program. As Peter J. Rudy reported yesterday, “Rep. Osborn says she wants to ‘tighten up two criteria to give the program to children who need it, not an entitlement run amok.’ … Her bill would look at the parents’ income every year to determine if they still qualify. If the income exceeds $75,000, the scholarship would be revoked for that year. … She says, ‘The original intent of the bill was as an access program for poverty-level children. We’ve gone beyond that already.”

At the federal level, kudos to Sen. Tom Coburn and Congressman James Lankford for attempting to end the practice of sending unemployment checks to people who make more than $1 million a year.

And while we’re on a roll, let us consider putting an end to the practice of providing free babysitting to Oklahomans who can afford to pay for it themselves. I’m sure you’ve seen the stories: every year Oklahoma parents camp out at school over the weekend in order to secure a spot for their child in a taxpayer-funded kindergarten class. “I’m trying to get the full day,” one parent openly acknowledged, in order to avoid having “to pay out of pocket for daycare outside of the half-day kindergarten.” Another family acknowledged "they expect to save up to $6,000 in daycare costs by getting a spot for their son in the [kindergarten] class.”

Now I’m not suggesting we tinker with kindergarten, but Oklahoma’s cash-strapped legislators do need to take a careful look at preschool daycare. Heritage Foundation researcher Lindsey Burke correctly calls government preschool "an expensive and unnecessary middle-class subsidy." American Enterprise Institute scholar Douglas Besharov worries that "preschool will become a new middle-class entitlement" which shortchanges the poor. And as much as proponents like to gussy it up by calling it “early childhood education,” taxpayers are still waiting for the enduring educational results. Indeed, just last week we were reminded that Oklahoma—despite all this free preschool!—is one of the states running out of smart people.

Rep. Osborn asked a very good question regarding OHLAP: Should a woman working two jobs to make ends meet be paying taxes to pay for the college tuition of a student whose family makes $150,000? Similarly, I would ask: Should a woman working two jobs to make ends meet be paying taxes to pay the babysitting costs of a family who makes $150,000? Four-Year-Olds Supported by Taxpayer-Funded Preschool

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