Two different conservative critics have lambasted me for saying in “Reign of Error” that early childhood education was a research-based way to improve the achievement of low-income students and narrow the achievement gap.

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute called such a proposal “pie-in-the-sky,” as did a reviewer for the (ironically named) “Public Sector,” published by the conservative Manhattan Institute.

There may be many good reasons to attack my book and my policy proposals–even though each of them has a solid research base–but attacking pre-school education is simply bizarre. There are few policy ideas that have more research or more bipartisan support. It is frankly embarrassing when reviewers say “the money is all gone” or “we can’t afford it” or “the research isn’t there” or come up with some other half-cocked reason not to do what other advanced nations long ago recognized as valuable and necessary.

Today, Motoko Rich in the New York Times has an article supporting (yet again) the importance of early childhood education, but in this case, reporting on research showing that the achievement gap begins as early as 18 months. The implication is that starting pre-school at age 4 is already too late.

Let the defenders of the status quo take their argument to the New York Times and to Nobelist James Heckman and to Susan Ochsborn of ECE Policy Works or to others in the research community.

What they have amply demonstrated if they don’t care about poor kids or closing the achievement gap, only maintaining the status quo.