All-Star Panel: Debate over Obama's plan for universal preschool

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 14, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our commitment to our kids' education has to continue throughout their academic lives. So from the time our kids start grade school, we need to equip them with the skills they need to compete in the high tech economy. That's why we are working to recruit and train 100,000 new teachers in the fields of the future, in science, and technology, in engineering, and math where we are most likely to fall behind.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: It's easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all the things you want to give away, but at some point somebody's got to pay the bill.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Today, the president was in Georgia touting a program. He wants to have the federal government provide preschool for every four-year-old child from lower and middle class families, pre-k program. We're back with our panel. Charles, what about this?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I find it amazing. First of all, just hearing him say every first grader in America has to be prepared for a high-tech economy, that is a bit early, I think.

The other part of this is that here we are with $16 trillion in debt, $1 trillion a year in deficits. We have created already with under Obama, the biggest entitlement in what? 50 years. And now he wants to create a new entitlement for preschool for every four-year-old in the country.

But the worst part -- it isn't just any new entitlement. It's an entitlement in an area where we know that the $7 billion a year that we spend on Head Start doesn't make any difference after the third grade. There is a study that HHS has done that showed that. It's a failure, and yet he wants to double down to make it universal. That is probably a definition of a liberal.

BAIER: Now, Kirsten, he cites study after study showing childhood early learning, the better they do down the road. Conservatives point to other studies that it doesn't have a benefit by the time they reach third grade.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: It's not liberal or conservative thing. I think everybody wants to help the children do better in school. It's just this doesn't seem to be the thing that is doing it. As Charles mentioned, the HHS study. You know, you have business leaders that were quoted in the New York Times today saying we need to do this to prepare our workforce for the future. They are three and four-year-olds. They're children. They don't have to be in preschool.

I think that we should offer something to help at-risk kids. But to do something universal for every child, for a child that's in a happy home that's learning from their parents doesn't necessarily have to be in preschool. But I think we should make it available for kids who maybe don't have the same opportunities as other kids.

BAIER: And Judge, from a libertarian point of view, I assume any expansion of the federal government is not something you are --

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: My goodness. Where is this in the constitution?  Somewhere the ghost of Woodrow Wilson is happy because he is outdoing -- Obama is outdoing Woodrow Wilson. This is not the job of government to take care of babies. It's the job of families. And it's certainly not the job of the federal government to have anything to do with education. With the exception of the military academy where the education is superb, whenever the government gets involved in education it's just a waste of money.

KRAUTHAMMER: The definition of a liberal, a liberal is somebody that doesn't care what you do as long as it's mandatory. And this idea of expanding this program at this tender age I think is offensive for those parents who want to keep the kid at home. And also it's useless.

POWERS: There are programs that they have found to have been helpful and not at a young age. It's actually for kids in summertime. It's as they get older, it tends to be when you see the gaps growing between kids coming from affluent homes versus poor children. And they have --

NAPOLITANO: But that's not the president's job.

POWERS: I disagree. That's why I think, that is definition of a liberal. I actually think the government can help out in this situation.  And help these kids who are falling behind and would benefit from being in summer programs. I just don't think the pre-k thing should be universal.

BAIER: Meanwhile, the sequestration is looming a couple of days away. So we wanted to talk about this. Judge, as always, thanks for coming down.

NAPOLITANO: Pleasure, Bret.

BAIER: Panel, thank you. That is it for the panel. Stay tuned to see a signal of major bipartisanship that we may have missed Tuesday night.

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