The number of 'at-risk' children is very small. However, there are several very powerful lobbying groups behind this push. Most make their money from either educating or supplying educators, so this will be a boon to them. Some weeks back when I attended the first Senate Ed Meeting the halls were filled with folks carrying yellow coffee mugs with "PRE-K NOW" in bold black print. The last Senate Ed meeting I attended the room was very populated by folks wearing big bright yellow stickers on their lapels saying "PRE-K Now".
I have some very strong feelings about a public school system that most probably 'educated' the largest part of the parents that now have children 'at risk'. Seems to me if the system didn't, at minimum, teach them to read, write and cipher well enough to pass on the Pre-K basics to their own children why should we give the system even younger children to, perhaps, also fail with?
Sen. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) was right in saying that a program that is this important shouldn't be funded on as unstable a foundation as lottery losings (my word, not his).
Additionally, we've accepted what I believe is a skewed view of exactly what our government should be doing. Education has become job one and one that by many reports isn't being done well enough.
Take a few minutes to read Drew Johnson's piece at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
Hard Lessons Learned: Applying 40 Years of Government Pre-K to Benefit Tennessee's Children Today by Darcy Olsen and Drew Johnson http://tennesseepolicy.org/publications/updates/U2005_3.htm