Hawaii is debating the merits of government funding of private preschools. The long held doctrine of “separation of church and state” is alive and well in the dialogue. Most states have already hurdled this obstacle and have moved beyond it. Now years into state-funded programs, what does test data reveal about private and faith-based preschools? The evidence in one state is clear: private faith-based preschools are better at educating!
The goal of education for any nation should be to educate its citizens. It really is that simple. However, beyond that simple explanation lies the real issue–who controls it? By control we could include philosophy of education, ideology, curriculum choices, social issues, etc. No one could ultimately discover the needs for control, but control is certainly the heartbeat of the issue.
It has long been held that private schools “lack accountability” or “hire unqualified teachers.” The arguments are tired and invalid. It seems, at least that the opponents have given up on “they only teach religion.”
Florida has been funding 4-year old children in private preschools since 2004. The program has undergone dozens of revisions and measures to ensure quality–required teaching credential (Florida Child Care Professional Certificate), required kindergarten readiness testing, required curriculum for low-performing providers. But based upon a government report in the state of Florida, Faith-based preschools do better at preparing students for kindergarten than any other type of preschool, including public, head-start, state licensed, and private non-faith-based centers.
According to the 2012 analysis of Florida Department of Education VPK Program data by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), Faith-based centers outperformed all other early learning centers (public, private, and non-faith-based) on every single school readiness assessment by a “statistically significant” difference (Report No. 12-06, page 8, Exhibit 8). The understated claim was:
“…children from faith-based VPK settings performed better on readiness assessments than children from other types of VPK providers.” (quote taken from Florida state website)
This got virtually NO press!
To further underscore the overwhelming benefits of religious preschools, faith-based providers had higher percentages of children ready for school than any other providers regardless of the children’s race and socioeconomic status (Report No. 12-06, page 9, Exhibit 9). The minority children of the state of Florida are more prepared by faith-based centers than state licensed centers, according to the State report.
The compelling evidence suggests that Faith-based providers should be an integral part of ANY state funded initiative for early learning. Faith-based centers should be allowed full autonomy in areas that do not require direct accountability measures like curriculum selection, implementation, and government control. In fact, empirical evidence this powerful clearly points to the capability of faith-based programs in leading ALL education reform!