The push for more preschool continues in Virginia. Despite Virginia’s recently being named the state where a child has the best chance for success in life, those in political and education ranks used the publicity to lament the Commonwealth’s low score on preschool enrollment.
“It’s a timely reminder that we must ensure that more children have access to high-quality preschool,” Kathy Glazer, director of the Governor’s Working Group on Early Childhood Initiatives, said in an e-mail.
“Virginia has much to be proud of in terms of the excellence of its educational system,” Glazer wrote, “but the zero ranking we received on enrollment in preschool is a sobering reminder that we’re not tapping the full potential of early education.”
Emily Griffey, director of research and advocacy for Success by 6 at the Greater Richmond Chamber, agreed.
“Of course preparation for success in life begins with preparation for success in school,” she said. “We’d like to see increased access to preschool programs, both public and private, and even before preschool it’s important that all parents understand their role as their child’s first teacher.”
That’s from the Jan. 4, 2007 Richmond Times Dispatch article Virginia Best for Child’s Chance for Success by Lindsay Kastner. I guess it doesn’t occur to anyone that some of the other factors that contributed to the state’s high scores allow many parents to choose private pre-schools or to provide high quality care for their own children in their own homes. In fact, what if the “zero” score on the preschool enrollment number — in the midst of a study about how successful the state’s children are compared to every other state in the nation — is actually an indicator of how not going to preschool benefits Virginia’s children? Maybe the low enrollment in preschool is in fact a REASON for Virginia’s high employment rate, relatively high rate of family income, and high percentage of post-secondary degrees. Perhaps all those children nurtured at home during their early years have gone on to do well creating jobs, working, and getting college degrees. No one knows and there is no way to know, but policy continues to be proposed based on the assumption that people believe more preschool is better for all children.
The Universal Preschool website has some excellent information about this issue and why it is important for homeschoolers and at-home parents to monitor public policy that is proposed for preschools.
Meanwhile, Examiner.com says this about the politics of Virginia’s preschool proposals:
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine’s administration is finally admitting the real reason he wants his taxpayer-financed preschool proposal to be universal ” and it has nothing to do with children.
“Public programs for just at-risk students don’t have the broader constituency of support as one that includes all children,” Secretary of Education Tom Morris told a Charlottesville public forum last month.
In other words, it’s all about the politics: The more you expand a program, the more support it will generate .” even though it will cost taxpayers a lot more.
The article goes on to note that there are studies that have shown how preschool is beneficial to a small segment of especially disadvantaged children, but that the same benefits have not been found to exist for other children.
Still, the Jan. 17, 2007 Examiner.com article Universal Preschool More about Politics than Education by Chris Braunlich explains, preschool-for-all continues to be advocated:
. . . the pilot (program) simply assumes that universal preschool is desperately needed by everyone.
Why should homeschoolers care? Well, the amount of tax dollars that preschool-for-all would require is breathtaking. But more than that, acceptance of the concept that children must be universally placed in institutions during their tender years further undermines the understanding that children are well-nurtured within their homes and families. Keeping children at home, living and learning in a family, when society is placing the rest of its children in institutions, will take homeschoolers further out of the mainstream (okay by me) and possibly subject to more scrutiny and proposed regulations (not okay by me).
Finally, it’s a vast experiment with our country’s children. In Virginia, if we give credence to the recent study, we can believe that children are likely to do better than children in any other state in the country, despite the fact that Virginia was awarded a “zero” for its rate of preschool enrollment. But it sounds like the state’s policy-makers are willing to risk this status, proposing vast changes in how early-years children are nurtured, even though, as Examiner.com says, “. . .there’s never been a study of Virginia’s current preschool program to determine whether it’s actually accomplishing what it’s supposed to do.”
by Jeanne Faulconer