State lawmakers seem to at times think if you throw money at a problem, it will simply disappear.
Flushing away taxpayer dollars, however, is certainly different from making a strong, sensible financial promise.
We hope the General Assembly made such a commitment with its decision to expand 4-year-old kindergarten in South Carolina.
The state’s investment particularly targets 4-year-olds living in low-income households, offering them a chance to one day break the cycle of poverty.
We hope every dollar invested in the program will generate greater dividends for future generations. That’s certainly been the goal of Georgia and North Carolina, which both have statewide 4K education.
Opponents may argue that classes for 4-year-olds will be ineffective because merely attending school doesn’t change a child’s home environment.
The same could be said for students at any level, regardless of whether they come from a high- or low-income community.
Of course, evaluating the impact of any educational program can be difficult. A child may have an ineffective teacher or a trying classroom environment.
But only with the right resources, both in and out of the classroom, can students improve their stock in life. By extending 4K programs, it can prove to be an effective step toward academic success. Our legislators recognize that as well as Gov. Nikki Haley, who spared cutting the program’s expansion as part of the veto process to the proposed state budget.
The extension of the program should certainly come with the appropriate performance measures. Any initiative developed with public dollars shouldn’t be allowed to continue down the same path if it’s underperforming.
The program’s price tag, unfortunately, is a hefty one. Statewide expansion is estimated to cost about $90 to $100 million.
By expanding the program, taxpayers can get a better sense of how early schooling can impact our state’s youth.
We can see if the state can provide effective early education that hopefully will provide a better trajectory in life.
If keenly designed, it can even help the state strengthen its economic competitiveness by having a more skilled workforce. Exposing language skills and other educational resources to 4-year-olds, especially those living in poverty, should put them on the right track, so they don’t begin school behind their peers.
By expanding our 4K program, it could be a key reform that helps jump start South Carolina’s education system and provides social and financial benefits for generations.