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How to Improve Child Well-Being in Oklahoma

April 18, 2002 - 3:13pm CDT

In 2000, the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Education issued its recommendations for programs addressing children from birth through age four. Alleging an “under-investment in early childhood education in Oklahoma,”1 the Task Force urged the creation of new government regulations and programs addressing every aspect of child rearing from the timing of births to the wages of child care center workers. This year, the Oklahoma legislature will have the opportunity to vote on Senate Bill 37, the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act, which authorizes many of the recommendations in the Task Force report.2 The Task Force report and the legislation focus on enlarging government involvement in early childhood care. Both recommend the creation of a public-private partnership to oversee new programs and initiatives. Unfortunately, these new programs are unlikely to improve child well-being and could even have a negative impact.

Oklahoma already has one of the most ambitious early childhood programs in the country. The state is one of only three to offer universal preschool for all four-year olds, in addition to numerous other early-care programs. But this substantial federal and state investment has yet to produce great gains in children’s academic success and health; nor has it resulted in crime abatement or other social outcomes promised by program proponents. Although improvements to existing government programs may improve some learning outcomes, they are unlikely to have an impact on other indicators of child well-being.

In fact, increased subsidization and regulation of child care outside of the home could have an adverse effect, particularly if it significantly increases the number of hours children spend away from home. Research has shown that children who spend more than 30 hours in day care are at greater risk of emotional and behavioral problems and that these problems can persist into kindergarten.3 Increased subsidization of child care is likely to increase utilization, putting more children at risk.

There are, however, investments in human capital that would result in a higher quality of life and a better future for Oklahoma children. The Task Force acknowledges that “the benefits of a parent being a full-time, primary caregiver to a young child are being increasingly recognized.”4 Two of the stated goals of SB 37 are “that families will nurture, teach and provide for their young children” and “that families with young children will recognize the importance of parenting their children at home.”5

The question, therefore, should not be what the government can do to replace the parent but what it can do to enable parents to spend more time with their children. Simply put, policies that strengthen the family benefit children. A large body of research indicates that wedlock and worship have tangible, statistically significant positive impacts on the well-being of children with respect to such social indicators as improved cognitive development, lower poverty, and reduced crime and drug use.6

The Task Force report and SB 37 contain provisions that could be utilized to empower families with this vital information. The report recommends “enabling families to make their own informed and responsible choices”7 and suggests launching a public education campaign to provide parents with good information on child health and development. Likewise, the legislation would “implement a comprehensive public engagement campaign.”8

This provision has potential to help families and children. To fully maximize the potential of this information, the public campaign should disseminate information that has proven positive outcomes for children. Additionally, the legislature should pass legislation to support families through tax relief, improve elementary and secondary education, and improve existing programs for poor children. Specifically, legislation should focus on:

Disseminating information about the value of parental involvement, wedlock, and worship. The extent to which parents stay married, stay involved in their children’s lives, and practice their faith determines much of their children’s quality of life and prospects for the future. The state of the nation’s families has a direct bearing on the well-being of society. Children of families that are stable, involved, and practice their faith are more likely to succeed in school and, later, in marriage and work. When families are broken, society bears the burden of increased government dependency, crime, drug use, and other destructive behavior. Marriage and worship are key to the health of children and society as a whole. In accord with the Task Force’s recommendation that the state disseminate information to improve children’s health, the state of Oklahoma should disseminate information on the significance of marriage and worship and should provide additional support for Governor and Mrs. Keating’s Marriage Initiative, as recommended by the Task Force.

Supporting healthy families. Community associations, schools, churches, synagogues, and mosques can play a key role in strengthening and supporting families. The government can aid their efforts by ensuring that regulations, taxation, and other policies do not place an unnecessary burden on families or encourage government dependency. For example, tax credits, deductions, or other incentives for child care should be available for parents caring for children in the home as they are for parents who are in the workforce. It is inequitable to subsidize one choice over another, as is currently the case. Officials should assess the impact of regulations or programs on marriage and the family. While government intervention is necessary in hard cases, government involvement in family life under normal circumstances is unwarranted and even detrimental to family health. It can lead to the erosion of parental responsibility and increased dependence on government programs.

Increasing the available options for children in kindergarten through secondary school to receive a quality education. Although most American children enter school ready to learn,9 by the 12th grade less than half are rated proficient in reading and only 17 percent are rated proficient in math, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress.10 The percentage of poor students reaching proficiency is significantly lower. School readiness is not a problem for most five-year-olds, but graduating from high school ready for college or career is a problem for many teenagers. The real priority must be K-12 education reform.

Improving existing government programs for poor children. Support should be provided for students who lack the requisite skills when they enter school. After a thorough assessment of existing state and federal child care programs has been conducted, ineffective or redundant programs and regulations should be eliminated. Lawmakers should increase the effectiveness of remaining programs by demanding results from government programs.

Rather than implement a new public-private partnership and a host of new initiatives as established by SB 37, the Oklahoma legislature should take the above steps to ensure the well-being and future of Oklahoma’s children.

Mis-Targeted, Ineffective Investments

The Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Education asserts that an under-investment in early childhood programs has resulted in teen births, lack of health insurance, high divorce rates, poor prenatal care, and poverty. The report recommends a massive, multifaceted child care partnership that would provide information and programs for every aspect of child rearing. SB 37 echoes this theme by suggesting that Oklahoma’s investments have not paid off because “investments are stymied by incomplete and unconnected programs and services.”11

The evidence, however, suggests a different diagnosis of the problem and a better solution. There has been no under-investment in early childhood programs. Oklahomans have already invested significantly in these programs, which have not brought the anticipated results because such investments have been mis-targeted.

Oklahoma is one of three states that provide universal preschool. In a report by the Congressional Research Service, Oklahoma was found to be among the states with the largest per-capita spending on early childhood care. Half of the state’s four-year-olds are served through these programs, and nearly half of them are in all-day care.12 There are an additional 30 state and federal programs serving infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.13 These include such programs as Therapeutic Nurseries, Oklahoma Parents as Teachers, ABC Clinic, Sooner Start, Children First, Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Education Disabilities Act, First Start, Even Start, Early Head Start, Head Start, Healthy Families, Child Guidance, Early Childhood Development and Parent Education Program, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Early Learning Fund, Success by 6, and the Child Care Resource and Referral System. At the time of the report’s release, Oklahomans were spending $472 million in state and federal funds on early childhood development and education.14

In 1998, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services introduced the “Reaching for the Stars” program, which increases subsidies to child care providers that meet certain criteria. The 1998 law also established universal state-financed prekindergarten programs. Additionally, the state has adopted a program to pay for college tuition, the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH) program, and a program that awards bonuses to educators with credentials, the Rewarding Education with Wages and Respect for Dedication (REWARD) program.15

Oklahoma’s investments in early childhood care have not produced the strong academic, economic, and behavioral benefits the Task Force report predicts they should. There were no significant improvements in 4th grade reading average scale scores or proficiency rates for Oklahoma during the 1990s.16 Oklahoma’s proficiency rates in mathematics remain lower than the national average, with only 16 percent of its 4th graders scoring as proficient.17 Other indices of children’s well-being are even more worrisome: One-third of the state’s children are born to unwed mothers; over one-fifth of all children live in poverty; and Oklahoma has the third highest incarceration rate in the country.18

Nevertheless, the Task Force report urges a dramatic investment in a strategy that has not proven successful. Specifically, the report recommends the creation of a private-sector/government partnership and several new state-level responsibilities. These state agencies and the partnership would be responsible for over 100 initiatives and regulations over almost every aspect of child rearing. For example, they would:

  • Disseminate information on brain development to new parents and child care providers;
  • Promote breast feeding;
  • Provide a toll-free phone number for parenting advice and program referral;
  • Start additional family literacy programs;
  • Increase state-run health care;
  • Advance health strategies;
  • Add new health regulations;
  • Provide a health care consultant to child care providers;
  • Supply home- and clinic-based nurse care;
  • Provide single-point-of-entry to child care programs;
  • Set wages for child care providers;
  • Further subsidize birth control;
  • Create another teen pregnancy reduction plan;
  • Encourage immunization;
  • Promote health education curricula in schools;
  • Supply additional funding and resources for children from birth through age three;
  • Grant incentives for innovative, child-centered practices;
  • Transfer all children in subsidized care to “Star” centers;
  • Fund construction and renovation of facilities;
  • Mandate lower child-staff ratios for minimum licensing requirements;
  • Give tax credits/deductions for employers and families who use child care;
  • Supply data and technical assistance to evaluate unmet child care needs;
  • Help implement a plan for unmet needs;
  • Increase subsidy reimbursement;
  • Lower the parent co-payment for children’s programs;
  • Increase eligibility for government programs;
  • Provide training and professional development for child care providers;
  • Coordinate the use of State Department of Health child-guidance staff as a resource;
  • Ensure that all children have access to early care and educational opportunities;
  • Support the collaboration between schools, Head Start programs, and child care;
  • Encourage schools to fund alternative space for programs for 4-year-olds if they have none; and
  • Provide technical assistance and bonuses to schools to use Title I funds for early childhood care.19

Similarly, SB 37 creates an Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Board charged with carrying out many of these functions. The act states:

“The purpose of the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act is to ensure that all Oklahoma children will be healthy, eager to learn and ready to succeed by the time they enter school…. To accomplish these goals, the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Board created in Section 3 of this act shall:

1. Promote early childhood care and education;

2. Function as a statewide public-private early childhood partnership;

3. Implement a comprehensive public engagement campaign; and

4. Encourage communities to provide environments that support children and families.”20

Neither the Task Force report nor the legislation contains any estimate of the expense of this expansive government plan. During this time of decreasing state revenues, the addition of new programs could squeeze out funding for vital state responsibilities. The promotion of institutional child care over parental care may increase utilization of child care centers. This not only would increase spending, but also could have a negative impact on children.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that children who spent more time in child care during the first four and half years of their lives are more likely to be aggressive toward other children and disobedient toward adults. It was found, moreover, that these behaviors persisted into kindergarten, where aggressive children bullied, fought with, and were mean to other children. The connection between aggressive behavior and time spent in day care was consistent, regardless of the quality of care, caregivers’ experience, or maternal sensitivity.

The NIH research is just one of many studies conducted over the past 25 years that have demonstrated a link between child care and disobedience. Other negative effects from child care include high rates of illness – including acute respiratory illness, diarrhea, ear infections, and an insecure maternal attachment.21

The potential for adverse impact of institutional child care is serious, and the presumed benefits are not guaranteed, especially in the long run. The Task Force report overstates the positive impact of day care. The report touts the Perry Preschool Project and the Abecedarian Project as examples of early childhood programs that result in positive long-term social and cognitive gains. These programs, however, have never been replicated, and Perry’s own study notes that, in comparisons with a control group, certain achievement/intelligence gains of their students dissipate by the time the children reach the 2nd or 3rd grade.

The effectiveness of the largest federal early childhood program, Head Start, has yet to be shown. Since 1965, taxpayers have spent over $30 billion on Head Start to provide comprehensive health, social, educational, and mental health services to disadvantaged students. Yet, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), the early childhood development program has continued to operate without any valid, useful evaluation of its impact.22 In fact, some studies indicate that it has not given children a “head start.” On average, children graduate from Head Start programs knowing only one or two letters of the alphabet.23 Furthermore, the gains in cognitive abilities that were made through these programs tend to fade away by the 2nd grade.24 At that point, the cognitive abilities of Head Start participants are indistinguishable from their nonparticipating peers.

Twenty-two years after its creation, Head Start co-founder Edward Zigler acknowledged that “we simply cannot inoculate children in one year against the ravages of a life of deprivation…. Then, as now, the arguments in favor of preschool education were that it would reduce school failure, lower dropout rates, increase test scores, and produce a generation of more competent high school graduates…. Preschool education will achieve none of these results.”25

Oklahomans should not expect new child care programs to achieve positive outcomes when similar programs have failed to do so after a 35-year $30 billion investment.

Better Investments: Disseminate Research on Parental Involvement, Marriage, and Faith

In the Task Force report, Secretary of Education Floyd Coppedge states, “Policy makers must give all diligence to empowering families to be strong and effective…and with equal diligence resist those actions which interfere with the traditional roles and responsibilities of parents to provide for all the needs of their children.”26 To this end, Oklahoma legislators should consider steps to empower parents to care for their children.

The Task Force report encourages the dissemination of information about prenatal care, breast-feeding, literacy, and child development. SB 37 charges the Board with the responsibility of a public engagement campaign on reading and “other opportunities for early childhood learning.”27 In addition to this information, the public campaign should include vital information on the importance of parental care, the danger of overdependence on institutional care, and the value of parental involvement, marriage, and worship. All Oklahomans should be aware of the research regarding the impact of marriage and faith on the well-being of children. Studies have shown that wedlock and worship have the strongest, most consistently positive impact on children’s health and well-being.

Marriage improves child well-being. Children born to married parents have higher birth weight and better health, stronger cognitive development, better education and job attainment, and a lower risk of behavioral problems, including criminal behavior.28 Infant mortality rates are lower for married women. In fact, a child born to a married high school dropout is at less risk of mortality than is a child born to an unmarried college graduate. African-American mothers are twice as likely to deliver babies with low birth weights. However, a baby born to a teenage, married black mother is less likely to have a low birth weight than is a child born to an unmarried, white, teenage mother.29

Divorce hurts children. Children of divorced parents are at greater risk of dropping out of high school and college.30 Abuse is more likely to occur in broken families.31 Children are safer in intact married families. The risk of child abuse is 20 times higher than in traditional married families if biological parents are cohabiting and 33 times higher if the single mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend. The risk of fatal abuse is 73 times higher when the mother is living with a boyfriend.32

There is also a correlation between the breakdown of marriage and crime.33 A similar correlation exists between marital status and poverty. Children in single-parent families are six times as likely to live in poverty as are children in two-parent families.34 Children born or raised outside of marriage are more likely to suffer from mental illness, depression35 and suicide.36 Children whose parents were not married show an increased likelihood of having lower verbal IQ, lower school performance, and lower school attendance.37 The problem perpetuates itself. Children who have experienced broken marriages are more likely themselves to give birth out of wedlock,38 cohabit, and divorce.39

Worship strengthens families and children. Regular religious practice discourages a host of social problems including suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, out-of-wedlock births, crime, and divorce.40 Adults who worship weekly are more likely to have happy, intact marriages and to live longer, have better health, and earn more. Their children are more likely to do well at school and to marry and less likely to commit crime and give birth out of wedlock.41 Regular worship is also correlated with economic well-being. Children from inner-city poor families who worship weekly are most likely to enter the middle class as adults.42

Parental involvement is essential for healthy development. Studies emphasize the importance of parental involvement in children’s development. These connections remain important even in older children. The National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, a comprehensive multimillion-dollar study commissioned by the 103rd Congress, found family connectedness to be a “protective factor” in a teen’s life.43 Teens are less at risk of abusing drugs or alcohol or having sex if they feel connected to their parents.

The public agrees. A 2000 Public Agenda poll found that 81 percent of parents with children under five say a stay-at-home parent is best able to give children the “affection and attention they need.” Over 70 percent believe that families should bear the costs of caring for their own children.44

How Legislators Can Empower Parents

Legislators who are interested in children’s well-being should assess policies and programs with regard to their impact on empowering parents. Officials should assess the impact of regulations and government programs on parental involvement, marriage, and worship. Specifically, they should:

Reduce the financial burden on families. The Task Force states that “it is difficult in today’s economy for even one parent to have the ability to stay home during the early years of a child’s life.”45 High taxes are a burden to families. Last year, the average Oklahoman had to work from January 1, 2001, to April 23, 2001, just to pay for federal, state, and local taxes. This means more of their paychecks went to pay for government than for food, clothing, and shelter combined.46 Lawmakers could alleviate this situation by lowering state taxes. Additionally, tax credits or deductions that are now available to parents who use child care should also be available for those who care for their children at home. Tax credits can also empower families without health insurance to purchase their own plan.47

Promote premarital abstinence. Lawmakers should reassess Oklahoma’s policy toward sexuality. The Task Force recommends increasing taxpayer subsidies for birth control. Throughout the past 30 years, government subsidies for birth control have encouraged sex outside of wedlock, teen sexuality, and out-of-wedlock births, particularly among the poor. Eighty percent of children in the lowest income quintile now live in single-parent families.48 In sum, subsidization increases behavior that is subsidized.

Encouraging abstinence until marriage is a better policy than “safe-sex” programs and birth control. Abstinence-only education has contributed to the recent decrease in teen births. Overall teen abortion rates are down, teen out-of-wedlock birth rates are down, and teenage virginity has risen significantly.49 Out-of-wedlock birth rates, however, continue to rise among those in their late twenties and thirties.50 Lawmakers should consider a public abstinence campaign for this age group.

Promote marriage. As recommended by the Task Force, additional support should be provided for Governor and Mrs. Keating’s Marriage Initiative. Throughout the nation, marriage initiatives have established track records of success. For example, Marriage Savers,51 a faith-based, non-denominational movement, has spread to over 180 cities across the country. Its presence is linked to decreased divorce rates, citywide, in 32 cities. Modesto, California, has had a 47.6 percent drop in divorces while raising its marriage rate 13.1 percent. Between 1995 and 1999, Kansas City and its suburbs decreased divorces by 44 percent. The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative’s emphasis on marriage preparation works.

Studies indicate that this approach has helped to reduce divorce rates;52 up to 20 percent of couples in marriage preparation courses have recognized flaws in their relationships that have led them to decide to part before marriage. Clearly, many people would have saved themselves and their children much grief if they had approached marriage more cautiously and more deliberately. Church and government have cooperated effectively in a mixture of faith-based and secular approaches to rebuilding a culture of marriage.53

Increase options for a quality education. Legislators who are concerned about the future prospects of young people should work to increase the available options for children in kindergarten through secondary school to receive a quality education. Most American children enter school ready to learn.54 However, by the 12th grade, less than half are rated proficient in reading and only 17 percent are rated proficient in math, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress.55 American children entering school are more prepared than their foreign peers. American 4th graders score better on international science and mathematics tests than many of their counterparts in other countries.56 But this relative academic superiority decreases as time in the school system increases. In international comparisons, 8th graders fall in the middle and 12th graders are nearly last in the pack.57 School readiness is not a problem for most five-year-olds, but graduating ready for college or a career is a problem for many high school seniors. The priority of efforts for educational reform should be K-12 education.

Although Oklahoma has already significantly reduced class sizes and increased expenditures, only 8 percent of poor students (both 8th and 4th graders) are proficient in math on the NAEP. The percentage of Oklahoma’s minority and poor students scoring as proficient is lower than the nation’s average.58

It is time to give families greater access to schools of excellence. Lawmakers can achieve true education reform by enacting significant school-choice measures. They can improve Oklahoma’s charter school law by making charter schools more independent and by allowing charter schools to open in more communities.59 In addition, they can give low-income students scholarships to attend safe and successful independent schools. Studies have shown that public and private scholarships have helped poor students, particularly African-American students, succeed in school. Recent research has shown that black students who received a voucher worth up to $1,400 annually and used the funds to attend a private school for three years had standardized reading/math test scores that were 9.2 percentile points higher than those of black students who did not attend a private school.60 Only 3 percent of African-American 4th graders in Oklahoma are proficient in mathematics, according to NAEP assessments. By the 8th grade, this percentage increases minimally to 5 percent.61 Such students could benefit greatly from a choice program.

Those who are given the opportunity to choose a school that better fits their needs are not the only children who gain through choice. School choice “lifts all boats” by introducing competitive market forces into the education system and compelling public schools to work harder to attract and retain students. According to a February 2001 study on “School Choice and School Productivity” by Harvard University economist Caroline Hoxby, Milwaukee’s public elementary schools improved as a result of competition from a private school choice program.62 Likewise, a Manhattan Institute study on Florida’s school choice program found that poor-performing public schools that faced the prospect of losing students to other schools as a result of a choice initiative exhibited higher academic gains than the other government schools. Schools on the verge of losing students strengthened their efforts, resulting in test scores that were more than twice as high as other schools’.63 Milwaukee and Florida provide models of choice that Oklahoma could adopt.

Improve existing government programs for poor children. After a thorough assessment of existing state and federal programs and regulations has been conducted, those that are found to be ineffective or redundant should be eliminated. The Task Force recommends that state agencies submit a report regarding the portion of their budgets that is designated for early childhood programs, the children who are served, and the outcomes of these programs.64 This would be a good starting point for identifying redundancy or ineffectiveness.

While eliminating ineffective programs, legislators should increase the effectiveness of remaining programs by focusing on outcomes rather than inputs. A case in point is the Stars program, which was created to increase the quality of child care facilities that receive subsidies for low-income clients. Providers receive higher reimbursements if they meet certain criteria such as the number of staff members with college degrees or credentials, higher pay scales, and staff training. But all of these criteria focus on input rather than outcome. Outcome-based criteria, which could improve performance and reward excellence, would focus instead on the progress of the students, for example, with regard to their ability to read, count, and get along with other students.

Home-based providers, who may in fact achieve greater scores in terms of outcomes, operate with fewer resources and therefore find it more difficult to meet input standards. Currently, although there are twice as many home-based as center-based providers, center-based providers receive a greater share of the two- and three-star awards.65 A shift to outcome-based assessments would help to resolve this inequity, especially if families using subsidies are to be encouraged to use Star-awarded centers, as the Task Force recommends. A failure to shift provider assessments to outcomes will effectively limit parental choice and will discriminate against providers that do not meet input standards, regardless of their results.

Conclusion

Senate Bill 37 states that “the Legislature recognizes that the benefits of early childhood development are substantial. Investing wisely during a child’s early years can reduce the need for remediation, treatment, or crisis intervention programs in later years.”66 However, the investments prescribed in the legislation are not necessarily those that will pay off. The proposal will increase the size and cost of government involvement in early childhood development. These new programs would be added to Oklahoma’s existing early childhood system, which is one of the most extensive in the nation. And, like existing programs, these policies are unlikely to improve the well-being of children to any substantial degree.

According to the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Education, “Today, the need is greater than ever for a seamless and comprehensive approach to human resource development, extending from prenatal care to the retraining and employment of senior citizens.”67 This pre-cradle-to-grave vision is not shared by most Oklahomans and is likely to increase government dependency while undermining parental authority.

Rather than investing in government solutions, it is time to invest in families. The Task Force report acknowledges that “the root core template for all relationships comes from original attachments with primary caregivers. Relationships and social-emotional development are the glue that provide the foundation for a healthy family, community and society.”68 Lawmakers can strengthen families by cutting taxes so that parents can use their own money to access the care that they believe is best for their children. Legislators can give parents real choices for the education of their children. In addition, they can promote marriage, parental involvement, and worship – factors that have the greatest potential to benefit children.

The Oklahoma legislature should reconsider SB 37 and the recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Education. They should invest in families, rather than government programs, to improve the well-being of Oklahoma’s children.

Endnotes

1. Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Education: Report and Recommendations for Oklahoma Infants, Toddlers and Preschool Children (from Birth through Age Four) and their Families, December 14, 2000, p. 5, at http://www.governor.state.ok.us/earlychildhoodtfreport.pdf. Cited hereafter as Governor’s Task Force Report.

2. The Conference Committee Substitute for Engrossed Senate Bill 37, sponsored by Senator Ted Fisher (D-District 12) and Representative Ron Peters (R-District 70), awaits a final vote. If passed, it will go to the governor for signature.

3. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Children Spending More Time in Child Care Show More Behavior Problems at Four-and-a-half and in Kindergarten, April 19, 2001, p. 2.

4. Governor’s Task Force Report, p. 65.

5. Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act (SB 37), Section 2, B.

6. See, for example, the research papers on the effects of marriage and worship presented by sociologists at a May 2001 Princeton University conference, at http://crcw.princeton.edu/CRCW/religionandfamily.htm.

7. Governor’s Task Force Report, p. 6.

8. Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act (SB 37), Section 2, C, 3.

9. Ninety-four percent of children starting kindergarten are proficient at recognizing numbers, shapes, and counting to ten; 92 percent are enthusiastic about learning; and most are in good health. See U.S. Department of Education, “America’s Kindergartners,” NCES 2000-070, February 2000.

10. See National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2000, NCES 2001-517, Figure 2.2, p. 26, at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2000/2001517a.pdf. See also National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: 1998 Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States, NCES 1999-500, Table 1.2, p. 20, at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main1998/1999500.pdf.

11. Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act (SB 37), Section 2, A.

12. Congressional Research Service, “Early Childhood Education: Federal Policy Issues,” CRS Report for Congress RL31123, September 17, 2001, pp. 12-13.

13. Darcy Ann Olsen, “Blueprint for a Nanny State,” Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, OCPA Policy Paper No. 01-3, p. 3.

14. Governor’s Task Force Report, p. 106.

15. Andrew Trotter, “Oklahoma, State of the States, Education Week, Building Blocks For Success,” Quality Counts 2002: An Education Week/Pew Charitable Trusts Report on Education in the 50 States, p. 149.

16. NAEP 1998 Reading State Reports, National Center for Education Statistics Report 1999 460, March 18, 1999, pp. 4-6, at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=1999460.

17. National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: State Mathematics 2000, NCES 2001-519, August 2001, at http://nces.ed.gov/naep3/pdf/stt2000/2001519OK.pdf.

18. Governor’s Task Force Report, pp. 33-36.

19. Recommendations listed reflect those described in the Governor’s Task Force Report. Additional programs and regulations included in the report’s footnotes are not listed.

20. Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act (SB 37), Section 2, B and C.

21. Richard Lowry, “Nasty, Brutish, and Short,” National Review, May 28, 2001.

22. U.S. General Accounting Office, Head Start: Research Provides Little Information on Impact of Current Program, GAO/HEHS-97-59, April 15, 1997, p. 4.

23. Chester E. Finn, Jr., Bruno V. Manno, Diane Ravitch, Education 2001: Getting the Job Done: A Memorandum to the President-Elect and the 107th Congress, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, December 14, 2000, at http://www.edexcellence.net/education_2001.html.

24. Grover J. Whitehurst, “Much Too Late,” Education Next (Stanford, Cal.: Hoover Institution, Summer 2001).

25. Edward F. Zigler, “Formal Schooling for Four-Year-Olds? No,” in Sharon L. Kagan and Edward F. Zigler, eds., Early Schooling: The National Debate (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987), pp. 36-37.

26. Governor’s Task Force Report, p. 65.

27. Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act (SB 37), Section 4, A, 2.

28. Patrick F. Fagan, “Rising Illegitimacy: America’s Social Catastrophe,” Heritage Foundation F.Y.I. No. 19, June 29, 1994.

29. Nicholas Eberstadt, The Tyranny of Numbers: Mismeasurement and Misrule (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1995), p. 33.

30. Patrick F. Fagan, “Encouraging Marriage and Discouraging Divorce,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1421, March 26, 2001, at heritage.org/library/backgrounder/bg1421.html.

31. Patrick F. Fagan, “The American Family: Rebuilding Society’s Most Important Institution,” in Stuart M. Butler and Kim R. Holmes, eds., Issues 2000: The Candidate’s Briefing Book (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 2000), p. 14.

32. The data in this paper are drawn from the following studies: Andrea J. Sedlak, Ph.D., and Diane D. Broadhurst, M.L.A., The Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3): Final Report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Washington, D.C., September 1996, and Robert Whelan, Broken Homes & Battered Children: A Study of the Relationship Between Child Abuse and Family Type (London: Family Education Trust, 1993).

33. See Fagan, “Encouraging Marriage and Discouraging Divorce.”

34. Federal Reserve Board, Survey of Consumer Finance, 1995; see Chart 2 at heritage.org/library/cda/cda01-04.html.

35. Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey of Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 53 (August 1991). Data from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Survey, Series 10, No. 178, June 1991.

36. Patricia L. McCall and Kenneth Land, “Trends in White Male Adolescent, Young-Adult, and Elderly Suicide: Are There Common Underlying Structural Factors?” Social Science Research, Vol. 23 (1994), pp. 57–81.

37. See Fagan, “Rising Illegitimacy: America’s Social Catastrophe.”

38. See Fagan, “Rising Illegitimacy, America’s Social Catastrophe”; see also Andrew J. Cherlin, Kathleen E. Kiernan, and P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, “Parental Divorce in Childhood and Demographic Outcomes in Young Adulthood,” Demography, Vol. 32 (1995), pp. 299–316.

39. See Cherlin et al., “Parental Divorce in Childhood”; Paul Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 109–112; and Pamela S. Webster et al., “Effects of Childhood Family Background on Adult Marital Quality and Perceived Stability,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 101 (1995), pp.404–432.

40. Patrick F. Fagan, “Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No.1064, January 25 1996, at http://www.heritage.org/library/categories/family/bg1064.html.

41. Ibid., pp. 6-16.

42. Richard B. Freeman, “Who Escapes? The Relation of Church-Going and Other Background Factors to the Socio-Economic Performance of Black Male Youths from Inner-City Poverty Tracts,” Working Paper Series No. 1656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985.

43. Kimberly Erickson, “Youth Facts: Interconnections—Emerging Patterns in Youth Risk Behavior,” Institute for Youth Development, June 1, 1998, p. 5.

44. Public Agenda, “Necessary Compromises: How Parents, Employers and Children’s Advocates View Child Care Today,” 2000, at http://www.publicagenda.org/specials/childcare/childcare.htm.

45. Governor’s Task Force Report, p. 65.

46. Tax Foundation, “America to Celebrate Tax Freedom Day on May 3, 2001,” at http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxfreedomday.html.

47. For more information on health care tax credits, see Nina Owcharenko, “How Congress Can Help the Uninsured Obtain Health Coverage,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1475, September 21, 2001, at http://www.heritage.org/library/backgrounder/bg1475es.html.

48. Data from U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Surveys, published in March of each year; see chart at http://issues.heritage.org/family.

49. The rate per thousand has dropped continuously since 1991; see Child Trends, “Facts at a Glance,” August 2001, p. 4, at childtrends.org/.

50. NCHS Vital Statistics, relevant years; see chart at http://issues.heritage.org/family.

51. See marriagesavers.org/.

52. For divorce rate drop in such communities, see http://www.marriagesavers.com/public/divorcerates.htm.

53. See marriagesavers.com/public/three_governors_invite_marriage.htm.

54. Ninety-four percent of children starting kindergarten are proficient at recognizing numbers, shapes, and counting to ten; 92 percent are enthusiastic about learning; and most are in good health. See U.S. Department of Education, “America’s Kindergartners,” NCES 2000-070, February 2000.

55. See National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2000 NCES 2001-517, Figure 2.2, p. 26, at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2000/2001517a.pdf.

56. 1999 Third International Math and Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R). See TIMSS 1999 International Mathematics Report, International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, December 2000, p. 32.

57. 1995 Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). See TIMSS Highlights from the Final Year of Secondary School, International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, February 1998, p. 1.

58. National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2000 Report for Oklahoma, NCES-517 OK, Tables 4A and 4B, pp. 31 and 33, at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/stt2000/2001519OK.pdf.

59. The Center for Education Reform rates Oklahoma’s charter school law as the 16th weakest of the nation’s 38 charter school laws. The Oklahoma charter school act does not grant charter schools complete operational and legal autonomy. Charter schools are allowed in school districts with over 5,000 students and in counties with populations of at least 500,000. See http://www.edreform.com/charter_schools/laws/Oklahoma.htm.

60. Daniel P. Mayer, Paul E. Peterson, David E. Myers, Christina Clark Tuttle, and William G. Howell, “School Choice in New York City After Three Years: An Evaluation of the School Choice Scholarships Program Final Report,” Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., No. 8404-045, February 19, 2002.

61. National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2000 Report for Oklahoma, NCES-517 OK, Tables 3A and 3B, pp. 27 and 29, at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/stt2000/2001519OK.pdf.

62. Caroline Hoxby, “School Choice and School Productivity,” Harvard University, February 2001.

63. Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., “An Evaluation of the Florida A-Plus Accountability and School Choice Program,” Center for Civic Innovation, Manhattan Institute, February 2001, at http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_aplus.htm.

64. Governor’s Task Force Report, p. 47.

65. Education Week, Building Blocks for Success, Quality Counts 2002.

66. Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act (SB 37), Section 2, A.

67. Governor’s Task Force Report, p. 4.

68. Ibid., p. 21.

Krista Kafer is a senior education policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).