Sunday, December 10, 2006

CT Panel Wants Increased Pre-K Funding

According to a Hartford Courant article,
"Connecticut should spend as much as $100 million over the next two years to expand children's services, including preschool classes, to make the state "a national model for early childhood education," a state committee said Wednesday."
They want to spend
$31 million next year and nearly $72 million in 2008 to a range of programs covering education, social services and health programs now estimated to cost the state about $539 million annually, according to a report issued earlier this year by the Connecticut Early Childhood Education Cabinet
This plan is the first stage of a five-year proposal which will more than double the number of low-income children in preschool classes, to train more preschool teachers and aides, and to bolster the quality of preschool programs statewide. In CT , they say that already about 77% of our kindergartners attend some type of preschool, although it is lower in urban cities.

Now I am not against preschool entirely; my two eldest children attended preschool for a short while. They played with blocks and Legos and sang songs. I paid for their preschool out of my husband's and my own working wages. I hated that they were there, because I wanted to be with them; but I succumbed to huge local peer pressure to have my kids in preschool. I also have a child who did not attend preschool,because by then I decided to make an unpopular choice at the time and I left the corporate world to raise my own children. My youngest child is no different in intelligence or ability compared to my two oldest, and I don't think they had any advantage in attending preschool over my youngest. But I guess because I am not a stereotypical lower income minority parent considered uneducated and uncaring, my results have varied.

What I object to here is state/taxpayer funded preschool, which is really designed to add more legions/members to the teacher's unions, and raise the salaries of preschool teachers. The move for early childhood education to be part of the public school system, is really being pushed by those who want more teachers on the taxpayer dole, by creating the "certification programs" to be able to employ preschool teachers by public schools. Additionally, the intention is to put the infrastructure in place and then lower the compulsory attendance age to make sure that all 3 and 4 year olds attend public school, just like in European countries (and follows the UNESCO agenda). The UK has even instituted a national curriculum for babies. To me that is nothing more than encouraging the outsourcing of parenthood, and allowing the state to raise the majority of our children.

Offering pre-school for lower income families across the state is not a bad idea entirely. We have Headstart programs that do just that, as well as vouchers available for lower income families to use in private preschools. That seems to be working fine for those families who need this type of resource. It's probably necessary to increase the number of slots available, but I don't believe that we ought to be making families dependent on the state for childcare, and I don't believe that taxpayers ought to be shelling out millions for "preschool for all", and I don't believe that Pre-K should be administered by the public school system.

Preschool is advertised to be a mechanism used to "close the education gap", that is supposedly created by kids who don't attend preschool and those who do, or as most people would have us believe, by lower income minority parents who don't give a whit about their kids, and us rich suburban folks who send junior off to formal education in a limousine. You know, we've heard the horror stories of those minority parents on crack leaving their babies in a playpen in front of the TV set all day. Proponents of Universal Pre-K make it sound like that's the norm. If I were a minority parent in an urban city I'd be outraged, especially in light of the fact that these parents are the very parents who are fighting tooth and nail to get a decent education for their kids. The notion that urban parents are a bunch of dolts needing the state to raise their kids for them, evaporates when you look at the superb results of places like Jumoke Academy and Amistad Academy. Are there people that need help? Sure, but there are programs by the busload in place already. What is really needed is an audit to see which ones are working.

The folks going around preaching the gospel of Universal Pre-K (like the League of Women Voters) are telling everyone that kids need credentialed professionals to teach these kids how to use a public restroom, how to make eye contact, how to get along and be able to express themselves to someone other than a family member. They are upset that there still exists Kith and Kin care where, heaven forbid, kids are being cared for by unlicensed and unregulated family members/relatives. Additionally, they are trying to use science to state their case, making sure you can see the difference between a brain scan of a child on Pre-K and one not on pre-K. It's nonsense, but by golly they will even tell you that government funded Pre-K is a good investment for our country because "the kids make better citizens".

The truth of the matter is that states (like Illinois and Georgia) that have implemented Universal Preschool and have spent millions of dollars doing so, have found that the results are really not worth the money. Any gains made early on virtually disappear by 3rd grade. This has been documented in several places. CT policy makers are already balking at the cost of this preschool proposal and wondering where all the funding will come from, especially at a time when school budgets are being scrutinized, and taxpayers are already screaming about increases.

In CT, our own chairman of the Education Committee, Thomas Gaffey, had written a letter in July 2006, to Allan Taylor, chairman of the State Board of Education lamenting the fact that despite the offering of "school readiness" programs in his district they had failed to make the gains in 4th grade reading that they had hoped for. He questioned the efficacy of the programs. Even Edward Zigler, one of the founders of Head Start and a longtime academic advocate of preschool programs, stated in 1987 (during the late 1980s push for federal babysitting):
"This is not the first time universal preschool education has been proposed . . . The arguments in favor of preschool were that it would reduce school failure, lower dropout rates, increase test scores, and produce a generation of more competent high school graduates. . . Preschool education will achieve none of these results."
An article written by the Cato Institute offers some interesting insights on Universal Pre-K as does this one.

But what riles me most is comments like, "You are not serving your child properly if you are waiting till age 5 to educate your child." This implies that parents are incapable of teaching their children anything, and that everyone should hand over their children to the credentialed "professionals" as soon as possible, or risk ruining their children's chances for a fulfilling and successful life forever. Don't forget that in addition to adding more teachers to the NEA's membership, that what is really going on here is that they need your kids so they can collect and track data on their health and development, in order to develop more public policy! There is a war going on over your children.

Kindergarten was always intended to be the setting for "school readiness". Everyone who attended kindergarten came from different levels of knowledge, and kindergarten was supposed to make sure everyone was on the same page before beginning school in 1st grade. That notion has only changed because there is much money to be made in early childhood education, a lofty euphemism for nursery school.

The question remains, will taxpayers be convinced that they need to pony up for this?
I'm not convinced this is a worthwhile expense or that it is healthy for our kids, and I plan to tell you more about this in upcoming blog posts. Rest assured, the push for Universal Pre-K is happening all over our country. Some states, like California, have already said NO (Proposition 82), and others are still wrestling with it.