Bryan Fischer
Revolutionary idea to strengthen Idaho families, reduce cost of public education
By Bryan Fischer
November 25, 2008

Idaho legislator Rep. Steven Thayn has proposed a novel, even revolutionary idea which will strengthen Idaho families, strengthen the parent-child relationship during the first five years of a child's life, enable more children to show up in first grade ready to learn, and reduce the overall cost of public education. Intrigued?

In a nutshell, here's the idea: pay parents who bring their children to the first day of first grade ready to learn.

Study after study shows that parents make the best early educators for their pre-school children. They are the ones who read to them, instill in them an early love of learning, and build their vocabulary and language abilities in their most formative years.

(In fact, prolonged exposure to daycare settings retards a child's language development since so much of his verbal interaction is with others whose language skills are as limited as his own. A child at home, on the other hand, engages in constant linguistic interaction with an adult, which quietly yet steadily improves his grasp of grammar and expands his vocabulary.)

Plus, strong families are correlated with a host of taxpayer savings over time, as children who come from stable families have higher graduation rates, use fewer social services, have fewer substance abuse problems, have lower incarceration rates, and have higher income levels as adults.

A weak parent-child relationship, on the other hand, is strongly correlated with lower graduation rates, higher use of social services, increased rates of drug use, higher levels of unwed pregnancies, higher levels of incarceration, and lower adult incomes.

All of the positive correlations reduce government spending and can lead to lower taxes. All the negative correlations require more taxpayer-funded remediation programs, leading to more government spending and higher taxes.

In fact, Thayn estimates that strengthening Idaho families could reduce the cost of Idaho state government by $630 million per year, better than 20 percent of the current state budget.

Simply put, public policies that strengthen the Idaho family are not only good for Idaho families but good for Idaho's quality of life and good for Idaho taxpayers.

Rep. Thayn's idea is simple: let's resist the pressure to expand government-run kindergarten and pre-K programs and instead reward parents whose children do not use government kindergarten schools and yet can pass the kindergarten test and demonstrate that they are ready to start the first grade.

Under his proposal, parents whose children can pass the kindergarten test, thus showing they are ready for first grade, would be paid $2,250, one half of the $4,500 it costs the state to strap that same child into a kindergarten seat for a year.

Talk about a revolutionary approach to merit pay!

This is the ultimate in performance-based pay for those teachers who demonstrate, based on the academic achievement of their students, that they can deliver the goods.

There is a cherry on top for schools in Thayn's proposal. Schools would receive $1,125 (1/4 of the cost of teaching that same child in a classroom for one year) simply for administering the test. Thus the schools benefit from the productive work of parents who bring ready-to-learn students to them on the first day of school.

The remaining $1,125 would represent the net savings per child to Idaho taxpayers.

Thayn's article, which you can access at the link below, contains a chart showing that if 5,000 of the 25,000 kindergarten-age students in Idaho were educated at home, the net savings to taxpayers each year would be $5.6 million.

The more parents are drawn to the idea, the better things get. If 80% of kindergarten age children were educated at home instead of in state-run schools, the savings to taxpayers would grow to $22.4 million per year, and $44.8 million would be returned to Idaho families (it's their money, remember) to reward them for educating their children at home and lowering the cost of public education.

What's not to like?

Rep. Thayn intends to introduce legislation this coming session to put this in place, and the IVA will support his efforts. (Thayn is also proposing innovative legislation for Grades 1-12 and post high school education, about which more later.)

When it comes to pre-school education, the pro-family community has been playing defense for years, fending off relentless attempts to expand government-run, expensive, taxpayer-funded education to younger and younger children.

It's time to go on offense, and let opponents of family-centered early education play defense for a while. Rep. Thayn's game plan will do just that.

A New Model for Government — Rep. Steven Thayn

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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