More on my thoughts about starting another bureaucracy based on a theory and sketchy information:
First, we need to start with good studies or at the very least, model a new idea after one that has proven to work.
I can't figure out why we are doing what we are doing right now on this Pre-K plan. If I were a doctor I would not hand out medicine before I knew the sickness. If I were a general in war I would not begin to invade without a clear goal to measure success.
If the state were a business, I would know not to expand when there are problems in the system that must be addressed first.
The real question is who is better equipped at raising children-the parents or the state. So far I have not heard any convincing evidence that this program will help Tennessee's children in the long run.
My personal philosophy is that more government is not the solution. A big problem is the breakdown in the family and therefore the difficulties associated with that breakdown. Studies reveal that more than any other factor-- more than race, nationality, or economic status--the parental participation in the child's education is the greatest barometer to success.
The real question is how to best encourage parental involvement in their children's education. The current plan involves giving up on the family unit. It appears we are waving the white flag while saying “We surrender! The family has failed!”
If taking children earlier doesn't work, then what next? Do we take them at 2 years---at birth? Parental responsibility is something we should encourage and support. Parental responsibilty must replace collective excuse making.
I disagree with the “it takes a village” mindset, instead we should do all we can to change the mindset to "it takes a family."
Some of the best education stories I've heard come from privately run programs. In one case, before the child was admitted to school, the parent had to attend classes where they were instructed how to read to their children (faster, slower, point things out in pictures).
In some cases the parents had to sit in a class and pick out a teacher. If the teacher ended up with too few students, then he/she didn't teach that year. Obviously teacher tenure was not in effect in this example.
Also, in some places, PARENTS get a report card on such things as attending meetings, volunteering at school, calling teacher about student progress, sitting in on a class, etc. Do these programs sound good? They usually cost a little more than half of what the Governor is proposing to spend and have proven to have effective results. And regarding vouchers (did I say a bad word?) to be used for these pre-K programs, they are off the table. In fact, the plan the Governor is pushing will likely kill off approximately half of these private run programs. In other words, instead of encouraging free enterprise and successful programs, the Governor wants the state to do the job for twice the cost, run private programs out of business, and get worse results. Brilliant.
I guess he and the legislators who vote for it can at least be assured of a NEA and TEA endorsement in their next elections.
Bob Dole once said "a government that will take control of the economy for the good of the people will next try to take control of the people for the good of the economy." It sounds like the Governor's plan is killing both birds with one stone.
Truancy is also a problem in this state, and while some counties are beginning to crack down, it still remains a problem. If children aren't at school, parents need to be held responsible.
There are many other ways to increase test scores, such as Dolly Parton's book from birth program. It seems to be having good results by sending an age appropriate book to a child on a monthly basis. I know when I was a kid if I received anything in the mail it was a huge deal to me. I harassed my mother non-stop until she read it to me. Kids can be persistent in this way (I'm sure you've witnessed it in the candy or cereal aisle).This program costs about $25.00 a year compaired to 5-9 thousand sound like a deal to you?
All of these ideas are low cost and involve changing the way things are currently done. At some point we have to start looking at the process instead of just adding another layer of bureaucracy. But often times the things that are logical aren't listened to by the powers that be. If we must go the state run road why not make the parents come to classes or be forced to pay for the pre K?
With a new Pre-K plan, be prepared for another big government bite.