Archive for May, 2016

Advocating for Pre-K 

Saturday, May 14th, 2016
Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

Arena Union Elementary eligible for Pre-K

The final days of yearly tests approach and schools look for student achievement progress under the Common Core State Standards.

Many teachers, mainly in states using Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessments, better known as PARRC, complain about the weight of the tests toward accountability of school success. Some parents in those states are fed up with testing and continue to opt-out so their students miss school on test days.

At the same time, a growing set of studies advocate the need for universal pre-kindergarten as a means of preparing children so that when they attend elementary, middle, and high school they can succeed in every part of the school year.

It is also true, however, that not all states can assure parents of successful high quality pre-K programs.

After two years of legislation in the California government, the first bill was vetoed and the second bill is, as of this moment, mired in the appropriations committee, i.e., $$$.

In California, approximately 22,000 children, mainly at low-income funded sites, attend Head Start, Early Start, and state pre-schools and transitional kindergarten to prepare for later academic success. That leaves, currently, 34,000 eligible children without a program. Remember, these numbers reflect California, but the numbers country-wide average the same.

Why should the 34,000 eligible for access have a place to go? The studies provide evidence that those students over all have increased cognition, social, language (especially English Language Development), and emotional development skills – that is, they’re ready for academics. They are less likely to enter the juvenile justice system. More likely to graduate from high school. Incarceration and welfare costs decrease. Above all, parents of and students who do well in school are more likely to move out of poverty.

In Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley economics dominate, pockets of families do not have the resources to send their 4-year-old children to pre-school. There are not enough locations in the areas where eligible children live. The state doesn’t yet provide enough resources to upgrade sites and fund teachers in the seven major school districts in the county. Some major cities manage to provide limited support of $5,000 per child for programs.

The Santa Clara county Office of Education is sponsoring Strong Start to galvanize a coalition of co-sponsors including six school districts, five early education foundations, six non-profit foundations, League of Women Voters, the 6th District PTA, and endorsed by Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, Edsource, the Clinton Foundation, and, of course, the early learning agenda advocated by the President of the United States. All to expand access to and increase investment in pre-K for all children in the county.

The main obstacle is the $$$. A Public Policy Institute of California survey shows that 68% of Californians feel it’s very important to provide pre-K to promote success in higher grades; 76% overall feel that public funds should be spent on the effort; and almost one-half of the respondents had no children under 18 at home.

Nevertheless, another PPIC question about affordability showed concern that the cost exceeds public college costs and worry about moving California budget surplus funds to support the plan. The first legislation for pre-K expansion was vetoed by Governor Brown because he states the state education budget makes revisions and any change should be made in that process.

On Friday, May 13, 2016, Governor Brown released the revised budget which must be completed by June 15 for 2016-17. Although in January the impression was that the budget could increase early learning and childcare, on Friday the governor wanted to hold the line on new programs and boost the monies to the state’s cash reserves.

On the side, it has been stated that the governor also thinks that parents should be in charge of their children until they enter school.

Let’s see our dollars well-spent! We know testing is time-consuming and can be useless. Assessments aren’t needed to see that some schools are struggling – we know that too. Tests should be analyzed to see what’s working and make further improvements.

And dollars spent to help students and families step up to better lives is worthwhile. Money should provide access to early learning for young children, ahead of their regular days in school, so their assessments and future can improve.