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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - The "Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Act," still in committee in the Oklahoma State Senate at this writing, could be brought before the full Senate and House some time this year. This bill is based on the Governor's Task Force on Early Childhood Education/Care report of December 2000, which pro-family activists characterize as "nothing less than a blueprint for a state-run child care, health care and education system for Oklahoma children from the womb through age five."
Oklahoma is one of three states (a-long with New York and Georgia) said to be "moving toward" universal preschool for any preschool child whose parents want it, regardless of income. In Georgia the program is funded by a state lottery.
According to Education Week (1-10-02), 22 states currently supplement the federal Head Start program, 26 states pay for all-day kindergarten, and 40 states provide at least some funding for preschool programs. About half of these states "require family caseworkers or outreach to families in the form of home visits as part of the program."
A number of educators, politicians, organizations, and activists have joined the crusade for universal preschool, which many parents and taxpayers regard as government-mandated and government-financed babysitting. The terms and arguments have changed, but the concept is not new. A push for federally funded daycare occurred in the late 1980s, which prompted two major national conferences on child care sponsored by the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund. The still-timely lectures - including first-person accounts of professionals who personally witnessed the damage done to many young children in institutionalized care - are available in a book entitled Who Will Rock the Cradle
Big Business Backing
The Committee for Economic Development (CED) - a non-partisan group of business and education leaders - issued a report on Feb. 5, 2002 entitled Preschool for All: Investing in a Productive and Just Society, which recommends "free, high quality preschool education for all children age three and over who have not yet entered kindergarten." This report envisions "a strong state/federal partnership as the most timely and equitable means of accomplishing the goal of universal access to preschool."
Preschool for All urges the federal government to create a new federal-to-state grant program for lower-income families, to help states build early education infrastructures to provide access for all children, and to create a new, independent body to certify acceptable standards for early education.
The CED estimates that, when fully implemented, free part-day, part-year preschool programs for all children aged three and up will cost at least $25 to $35 billion over current spending levels, with additional investments needed to improve staff, facilities, technical assistance, and monitoring. This burden would fall on the taxpayers.
Big Foundation Support
Foundations are also jumping on the universal preschool bandwagon. A typical strategy of big foundations is to spend their tax-exempt funds to initiate large projects to be funded by the taxpayers.
The Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts recently announced a grant-making program for preschool education. According to Education Week (2-6-02), Pew has already awarded $5.3 million "to found the National Institute for Early Education Research" at Pennsylvania's Rutgers University. Pew grants will help finance an "advocacy center" to build public support for state and federal early childhood education programs, and the foundation has pledged to help establish a network of nonprofit organizations in other states to promote the growth and expansion of local preschool programs.
Early last fall, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of Los Altos, CA released a report called "Caring for Infants and Toddlers," which promotes early childhood learning and development. According to this report, "quality" child care for infants and toddlers contributes to school readiness, and state and federal policymakers should support efforts to improve care. (Goals 2000's first of eight goals reads: "All children will start school ready to learn.")
In 1994, the Carnegie Foundation issued a report called "The Quiet Crisis," which proclaimed that "Our nation's children under the age of three and their families are in trouble, and their plight worsens every day." Among the suggested remedies: "Guarantee quality child care choices for children under three." The Clinton Administration quickly embraced the report, renaming this alleged plight of young children the "Silent Crisis," and recommending that government intercede on their behalf.
Teachers Union Support
The teachers unions enthusiastically support universal preschool. The National Education Association (NEA) re-adopts a resolution every year titled "Early Childhood Education." It reads in part: "The National Education Association supports early childhood education programs in the public schools for children from birth through age eight. The Association also believes that early childhood education programs should include a full continuum of services for parents/guardians and children, including child care, child development, developmentally appropriate and diversity-based curricula, special education, and appropriate bias-free screening devices. . . . These programs must be available to all children on an equal basis and should include mandatory kindergarten with compulsory attendance." (See Education Reporter, Aug. 2002)
Last summer, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) also called on federal and state governments to make a commitment to universal public preschool. AFT President Sandra Feldman told AFT members at the union's biennial meeting in July that the Head Start program should be used as a model. She estimated the cost of such an endeavor to be about $41 billion, and recommended that a combination of federal and state funds pay for the program.
The AFT has been promoting universal education for three-year-olds at least since 1975. Newspaper reports on its convention in Honolulu that year correctly identified one of the purposes as creating more jobs for teachers by opening the public schools to millions of additional children.
Pandering by Politicians
Politicians at all levels of government support universal preschool. (See Who Will Rock the Cradle, Chapter 7.) At a Greenbrier conference in 1998, Democratic members of Congress were presented with a paper called "Kids as Politics" describing how "kids are the best vehicle" to get votes.
Some Governors, including former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, and lawmakers from a variety of states have proposed legislation and established programs to promote universal preschool. As previously noted, legislation is pending in Oklahoma.
In Illinois, Governor George Ryan appointed a Task Force on Voluntary Access to Universal Preschool with the goal of developing, by the start of this year, a five-year plan with cost estimates for access to preschool for all three- and four-year-olds. Last summer, Washington, D.C. City Councilman Kevin Chavous made headlines when he proposed his Compulsory School Attendance Amendment Act, which would have required three- and four-year-olds to attend school. During his failed presidential bid in 2000, former Vice President Al Gore vigorously supported the concept. His campaign set "high-quality, universal preschool, available to every child in every family" as a goal for the opening decade of the 21st century.
But as Cato Institute director of education and child policy Darcy Ann Olsen pointed out in Human Events (9-01-00), 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."
Olsen stated in her report, "Universal Preschool is No Golden Ticket," (2-9-99) that early intervention programs can boost children's test scores, but those gains wash out within a few years of exiting the programs. She referenced the thorough analysis of Head Start con-ducted in 1997 by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), which reviewed more than 600 studies and other documents. The GAO concluded that the body of research on Head Start was "insufficient" to draw conclusions about the national program's success or failure.
In her 12-page policy brief, "Blueprint for a Nanny State" (April 2001), which specifically addresses the Oklahoma "Governor's Task Force" report, Olsen observed that by the time Head Start celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2000, the program had devoured $44 billion taxpayer dollars while yielding little or no measurable benefit. Other early learning programs have fared no better, including North Carolina's Smart Start program, established in 1993, and the new Kidstuff program in Alabama. (See Education Reporter, Dec. 2001 and Who Will Rock the Cradle, chapter 7)
In his 2000 report, "Early Generic Educational Intervention Has No Enduring Effect on Intelligence and Does Not Prevent Mental Retardation," Professor Alfred A. Baumeister, Ph.D., former director of the Kennedy Center for Research and Human Development at Vanderbilt University and an expert in early child health and development, examined the "thorough and methodologically sophisticated" Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP). This comprehensive preschool program, Baumeister found, "failed to produce any enduring and meaningful effect on cognitive development, despite claims that it successfully raised intelligence and prevented mental retardation."
Last spring, the results of a major research study of child care and development showed that children who spend more hours per week in non-parental child care have more behavior problems, including aggressive, defiant and disobedient behavior in kindergarten. This study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) followed a group of more than 1,300 children in 10 different states through their first seven years of life. This study also found that, in general, "family characteristics and the quality of the mother's relationship with the child were stronger predictors of children's development than child care factors."
The results of these studies indicate that, while early childhood education programs may sometimes improve school performance in the short-term, there is no solid proof of long-term gains, and these programs may be associated with an increase in behavioral problems.
Why the Push?
Dr. David F. Salisbury, director of the Center for Educational Freedom, charges that "those who call for more state funding for preschool-age children ignore one important fact: American preschool children consistently advanced in IQ and on kindergarten readiness tests throughout the 20th century." Their performance only declines, he says, as they move up through grade school and into high school. Many critics say this is because elementary school children are taught by Whole Language to memorize only a limited number of words and so cannot sound out the polysyllabic words in books in the upper grades.
With such dubious benefits and such tremendous financial costs projected, why the orchestrated call for mandatory public preschool?
A report published several years ago by the Virginia-based, non-profit, non-partisan Family Foundation called "Universal Child Day Care: The Latest Attack on the Family," asserts that "a nationwide effort is underway from the highest levels and reaching into every state to impose, at first, national standards and controls on child daycare, and ultimately, a mandatory, comprehensive, universal preschool system for all children."
This report characterizes universal preschool as more social engineering, and states that the ultimate goal of those who promote the "Village" concept is mandatory preschool, as well as mandatory kindergarten, and even the licensing and training of parents by the state. Pro-family groups battling state legislation to establish universal preschool, such as Oklahoma Eagle Forum, agree. "There is no evidence that government is better at raising children, or that parents need government as a partner," says Bunny Chambers, president of Oklahoma Eagle Forum.
Universal preschool or daycare has been a goal of those who believe in social engineering ever since the 1970 White House Conference on Children recommended federally supported public education for "children at age three." The report explained: "Daycare is a powerful institution. A daycare program that administers to a child from six months to six years of age has over 8,000 hours to teach him values, fears, beliefs, and behaviors." (See Who Will Rock the Cradle, page 249)
The legislation that followed this conference, the 1971 Mondale-Brademas Comprehensive Child Development bill, was vetoed by President Richard Nixon. This idea made a comeback in 1975, and again in 1988 as the Dodd-Kildee Act for Better Child Care (ABC bill), but never became law because the American people rejected both the concept and the cost of federal baby-sitting.
While most early education programs have focused on health and safety standards, the push for universal preschool is increasingly accompanied by efforts to standardize academic curricula, and to require program accreditation and teacher credentialing.
According to the Family Foundation, federal Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) were established in 1990, putting into place "two key components that allow special interests, rather than family-based decisions driven by a free market, to manipulate child care providers." These two components are (1) the so-called resource and referral system and (2) the Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (In the welfare reform law passed in 1996, the CCDBG program was altered and renamed the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF).)
Here's how one child care expert described this system: A resource and referral network receives federal grants, and regulations are written that allow recognition of the credentials of only one private organization. The result is the ability of the one recognized organization to limit competition, because referrals stay within the small circle of those it chooses to accredit. Government money allows the system to function and shuts out competition by other potential resource agencies or accrediting systems. Rates are then subject to manipulation by those who set the standards for "quality" including accreditation, which affects training and curriculum.
Former Ohio and West Virginia Assistant Attorney General Mark Kindt, in his expos‚ called "Improper Special Interest Influence in Key Contracts: An Analysis With Preliminary Observations on the Politicized Agenda in Child Day Care," explained that the issuance of complex regulations for daycare licencing "under the guise of protecting the health and safety of children" is, in reality, "calculated to restrict entry, limit competition, reduce access, limit parental choice, and increase cost."
The NAEYC controls teacher training and daycare center accreditation by requiring key daycare workers to hold the two-year CDA certificate (created through NAEYC's collaboration with community colleges) before their institutions can be accredited.
In his book Everybody's Children, William T. Gormley Jr. writes that "The CDA program has been closely linked to Head Start, because Head Start pays for its teachers to complete the accreditation process from start to finish, and because federal law requires that every Head Start classroom with 20 children must have at least one teacher with a CDA or an associate's degree in early childhood education. As a result, approximately 80% of all persons with a CDA certificate work with Head Start."
What Does TEACH teach?
Karen Effrem, M.D., of Minnesota, a medical doctor and researcher of children's health, political and educational issues for the past nine years, states that the CDA training "teaches a very radical and dangerous curriculum to teachers and child care workers who, in turn, use it on our very youngest and most vulnerable children."
She has also researched the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH) program, which originated in North Carolina and uses taxpayer dollars to provide wage supports for daycare workers and scholarships to gain child care credentials. TEACH makes scholarships available for the CDA certificate program.
Dr. Effrem reports that the Minnesota legislature refused to allocate state funds for TEACH in 2001, but the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning (CFL) is implementing the program anyway with federal grant money. (In Alabama, TEACH is included in the Kidstuff program.)
"This is no small campaign," Effrem asserts. "The CDF represents one of the most well-funded and aggressive promoters of universal government control of preschool education, including a government-sanctioned curriculum for kids." (The CDF was a major lobbyist for federally funded and regulated babysitting in the late 1980s.)
Bias of the Anti-Bias Curriculum
What is the curriculum? The NAEYC sets the national standard for what all preschool children must eventually know and be able to demonstrate. The principles of its "Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children" are contained in the professional guidelines and standards for the CDA credential. According to Dr. Effrem, these include: "defining homophobia and discussing homosexuality, engendering a healthy sexual identity and having preschoolers do anatomically-correct drawings," teaching religious "diversity" by discussing witchcraft, and teaching history from a "diverse perspective." An entire chapter is devoted to social activism projects with young children.
The Anti-Bias Curriculum was first exposed in Education Reporter in Feb. 1992, which described the specific targets of the curriculum: "homophobia" and "discrimination on the basis of family composition." A concerned parent contacted Education Reporter to relate that she had received from her child's school a copy of NAEYC's guidelines for "non- homophobic parenthood," which included the following recommendations: "1) Don't try to 'prevent' homosexuality; 2) Don't worry about homosexual 'conversion'; 3) Don't react intemperately to children's questions about and interest in the subject; 4) Don't worry about how to raise a heterosexual child, worry about how not to be a homophobic parent."
In June 1993, Education Reporter described how the Anti-Bias Curriculum promotes witchcraft. "The Halloween image of the 'witch,' old, ugly, wicked, and dressed in black, reflects stereotypes . . . [that] powerful women are evil," the materials stated. These materials also claimed that witches heal people who are sick or hurt. Recommended activities for children included preparing witch's brew.
Following are some excerpts from NAEYC's current Anti-Bias Curriculum, courtesy of Dr. Effrem.
Under "Multiculturalism," the definition given for "Whites" states: "All the different national ethnic groups of European origin who, as a group, are disproportionately represented in the control of the economic, political, and cultural institutions in the United States." (p.3)
Page 3 carries this definition of "Homophobia": "A fear and hatred of gay men and lesbians backed up by institutional policies and power that discriminate against them." Page 9 describes a "witch healer" table, "where the children can make their own potions."
On the subject of sexual identity, page 53 states: ". . . the purpose of these activities is to enable pre-schoolers to develop a clear, healthy sex identity through understanding that their being a girl or boy depends on their anatomy, not on what they like to do." Teachers are instructed to "Make copies of an outline of a body as drawn by a preschooler, and in small groups, ask children to fill in all the body parts, and to show if the person is a girl or boy."
Page 8 of a related curriculum, called "That's Not Fair, A Teachers' Guide to Activism with Young Children," states: "Anti-Bias activism has other intrinsic benefits for young children." It includes these suggested "Activism projects": nurture self-esteem and empowerment, develop empathy and appreciation for differences, facilitate critical and problem solving, provide a mental model for children at risk from bias, and contribute to community-building.
Sippy-Cups or School Desks?
As Cato's Darcy Olsen puts it, our three- and four-year-olds are "trading their sippy-cups for school desks." She notes that four-year-olds in New York and California have already taken seats in public schools, while "visionary bureaucrats in Texas and New Jersey have opened public schools to three-year-olds."
Olsen points to the irony of the crusade for mandatory public preschool while Americans' confidence in public schools steadily declines, from 58% expressing "a great deal" of confidence in public schools in 1973 to 49% with the same level of confidence in 1988 to 36% in 1999, according to Gallup surveys. Olsen reports that the non-partisan organization Public Agenda recently found that, "while 68% of self-identified 'children's advocates' say government policy should move toward a universal, national child-care system, only 27% of parents share that vision."
Oklahoma's Bunny Chambers sums up the feelings of many concerned parents and taxpaying citizens: "Universal preschool will increase the dependency of parents and children on the state. Government has no authority over the care of infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and further state intervention is an insult to free people in a free society."*******
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