Among scientists and educators, there’s widespread agreement that early-childhood development is essential for youngsters’ long-term well-being. In the U.S., politicians have taken notice. More than half of the candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination are advocating universal, federally funded preschool for children under five.

The political appeal of “Pre-K for all” is obvious, but the benefits aren’t. A rush to universal pre-kindergarten risks creating a vast new entitlement that mostly subsidizes upper-income families. The goal should instead be getting more poor kids into high-quality programs.

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