Last month, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) — a long-shot contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination — said American students scoring low on history tests is proof of “a conscious effort on the part of the left, who has a huge influence on our curriculum, to desensitize America to what American values are so they are more pliable to the new values that they would like to impose on America.” During a campaign appearance at the Perry Public Library in Perry, Iowa this week, Santorum took this line of thinking a step further, explaining that he is opposed to early childhood education programs because he feels they are a government attempt to “indoctrinate your children“:
It is a parent’s responsibility to educate their children. It is not the government’s job. We have sort of lost focus here a little bit. Of course, the government wants their hands on your children as fast as they can. That is why I opposed all these early starts and pre-early starts, and early-early starts. They want your children from the womb so they can indoctrinate your children as to what they want them to be. I am against that.
“Obviously, socialists love children, just like they love people in groups of one million or more,” Santorum added.
Santorum’s bizarre conspiracy-theorizing aside, study after study has shown that federal early childhood education programs have substantial benefits. For instance, students enrolled in Head Start are more likely to be reading and writing at the appropriate level in their early school years, have better health outcomes, earn more money, and commit fewer crimes. Parents with students in Head Start and Early Head Start are also more likely to be involved in their child’s education and cost states less in Medicaid outlays.
One long-term study in California found that “our society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every $1 invested in Head Start children.” Meanwhile, conservative projections show that the real fiscal rate of return overall on public early education investments is about 10 percent. The Center on Children and Families has found that investments in pre-school not only boost GDP, but pay for themselves in the long-term.
As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said when discussing the value of investments in education, “the payoffs of early childhood programs can be especially high.” But Santorum would rather play the socialist card than ensure that the richest nation on Earth do all it can for its youth.