Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Opinion On Early Head Start

I feel kind of sad that I haven't had the time to update this in awhile. Since my last update, I had time to squeeze in one more of my classroom crafty sessions in and made my supply desk organizer.. don't worry pictures and details will soon be up. For now though I wanted to write a short opinion piece over Early Head Start due to my own experiences that were eye opening. If you didn't know I have been working for the past few weeks at my new job at an early education center that is in within a local school district. After two weeks of working there I handed in my two weeks notice. Something I have never done due to being frustrated until now. I realized quickly why I didn't think of early ed one bit when decided what branch of education I wanted to go into. I will start with the most current pressing issue that is shadowing early education in Missouri.
    Most people haven't heard the word yet, but Missouri is cutting Early head start funding. This is a significant amount of money (7 million I believe was the number they threw out at our HR meeting I attended telling us our jobs would be getting cut). Apparently, no one associated with the early head start program saw it coming. Which is something that kind of gets me, first because word travels fast in Jeff City (well around any political bodies), second they had announced there were going to be cuts made in education and the early ed programs seemed to be having quite the big budgets.Besides that point though, I don't feel incredibly shocked that the program is getting cut. MARK ( the group that deals with the political side of things and all the funding.. also who hands down the money to early head start programs (aka.. schools themselves)). is currently redoing their budget in efforts to try to save at least a few kiddos from being cut from the program and saving a few staff from cuts. But regardless.... most early head start teachers will be cut. Bad timing to with an rocky education job market and the timing of the year... a lot of places have already conducted their interviews and filled positions for next year. Not only is staff extremely shocked but the news won't be extremely easy to break to many families that utilize the program.  Before I progress anymore for any newbies, early education centers with head start are required to have so many state funded spots and federally funded spots in classrooms (spots referring to an open place for a kid in a classroom). Only a small handful of parents actually pay for services (like 5 parents total in this huge district). As for federally funded kids who won't be affected, that would be only 21 kids district wide... which is very few. That means almost 98% of the kids in early education ages 0-3 will be affected by this. Tomorrow we are going to be informing parents that as of June 29th their kid will not be able to attend the center and receive any services. I know that there will be many upset parents. For some, those that do work it means they might be having bigger budget crunches due to hiring daycare or even having to quit their jobs an go on welfare to take care of their child.  I feel bad for some of the kids that are state funded, the center provides them with the love and attention they need to grow up and have a shot at success. Many depended on the food, the diapering, the education and interaction to grow and live. On the other hand though I understand the state completely.. but they kind of wasted money in the first place with the early head start program. Here is why I think that:
1. Last year the budget was so large for early head start that they bought toys and other materials that they didn't really need, solely because they needed to use all the grant money ( too much was given! HELLO!!!). Plus the money couldn't be saved to prevent situations such as the current. If they could have saved some of the extra money that could be funding some kids and saving a job or two.
2. The schools milk the money. No where else in the public school system you will find free food for staff, children and parents. It took me off guard when I was told I can have lunch with the kids for free (wouldn't be taken out of my pay) and that the parents could come in and eat with their children for free as well. What bugged me was on the menu it had meal prices for adults. This makes me question that maybe we are technically suppose to pay but since there was excess funds they could do free food at the center. Still seems weird though.
3. Where is the learning?  I try to incorporate educational opportunities in my classroom with my little ones but what I have observed in other rooms and what I am given for instruction and duties seems nothing more than normal daycare routine. This is incredibly sad.  Part of it is having staff who do not have a degree or education pertaining to early childhood, the other is having staff with cda's or associates. I don't wanted to knock completely associate degrees but there is a reason they are ranked less than a bachelor's on the ladder of education. The lesson plans I've seen for early education at the center seemed lazy and not detailed enough. 3 words  (i.e. roll the ball)  on a lesson plan doesn't seem right. Yeah they place it in the domain  (social, emotional, physical, etc.) but still I think they should be expanded and more in depth.  Also let's face it when you have infants you can teach them but it is more about nurture at that stage...yet we (*taxpayers) pay for educational services?
4. Sorry but I have to say it--- There are quite a few people that use the system. I am a democrat but in this matter it could be perceived as more of a conservative viewpoint, but, yes I think some services like health care should be available to everyone ( with some restrictions/guidelines), however, those who are just taking and never contributing shouldn't be getting a easy ride. What I mean by this is I see daily families where no one in the household works, nor are they trying to find a job, they sit at home but they send the kids to the center because a) they don't have to watch the kid and instead can have their own free time b) they know the kid will get food, transportation and diapers for free (less cost for them) and c)they are plain lazy. It is sad that some people who have kids don't take responsibility and an active role in their child(ren)'s life. We have a bunch of "takers". I.E. the school sent home picture packets for each kid if they wanted the pictures they could take what they wanted and send the rest back along with the money for them. What happened though was most kept the pictures and never paid. What can the school do about it? Nothing. The school then has to pay for the pictures themselves. Let's be honest lifetouch pictures aren't the cheapest things. Especially the packets that they send home to try to sale the pictures (at least 60 dollars worth of pictures in each packet). These parents create additional expenses for the schools. My fave example come from this past week when a parent made the remark that we got 2 days off this week and how nice that must be (it was said in a snarky manner). The 2 days were p.d. days, they weren't vk days we still had to work but no children were at the center. Obliviously the staff remained professional and ignored the comment, but the comment ironically came from a father who is unemployed, isn't looking for a job and stays at home all day.. yet sends his child in to the center everyday almost from open to close (7:30 to 6pm).
5. We have to pay for that?!? Early head start requires teachers to make home visits. I get that they want the teacher to go to see the environment the child is in and give parents suggestions on things they can do in their homes to help their child, but it almost seems like we are there acting like social services seeing if the environment is fit. We don't perform home visits in elementary or highschool... why should taxpayers, etc. have to pay transportation cost to go to these visits and salary for the staff to do so (home visits take a LOT of time to complete!).

All-in-All I stand with the state on this one... Early Head Start wasn't worth the money. Of course, I do feel for those children that are placed in households, were going to the center is vital for them to receive the nurture they need but there comes a time when the parents need to recognize their responsibility in raising a child. Society as a whole needs to perk up their eyes and take a listen. You need to be a contributing member of society not just a baby factory (I say baby factory since most of the state kids have siblings... way over 80% do. If you can't take care of a child  you shouldn't keep having more). Maybe someday they can figure out what they can do to help young children (in providing better services) but also eliminate people taking advantage of the services provided and being mindful of a budget (not giving large, excessive sums).
I know there will be some who disagree with this view but I felt the need to relay it.

*disclaimer: I love all my students and only wish the best for them. I work to make a better life for them and I work to get the parents more involved in their child's life. I am not saying in anyway that I don't see parents who actually contribute. I am instead giving a general blanket statement about the my general observations over all of early education in especially lower income areas.