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March 13, 2009

False Alarm: It's Only John Stossel

There have always been those we love to hate. As a teacher and advocate for children, that person for me has become John Stossel. He loves to say, or actually, have his interviewees say, the most provocative, jarring, obnoxious thing possible – as long as it circumvents the facts. In 2006, Stossel set off on his campaign of revenge on his childhood teachers with the 20/20 show, "Stupid inAmerica." In the story he described how America was failing its kids and it that it was mostly teachers' fault. Even he "admitted" the title was intentionally off putting when he wrote...

"Stupid in America" is a nasty title for a program about public education, but some nasty things are going on in America's public schools and it's about time we face up to it.

The story provoked an outcry from people who actually work in public schools, and big surprise, he didn't stop there.

ABC News must be joking to legitimize this as “reporting”. Or maybe the joke is working for them. John Stossel has produced a show in cooperation with the Reason Foundation. Drew Carey is the mouth piece for Reason.TV that has been producing short documentaries on the triumph of libertarian thinking in America. With the help of Reason.TV Stossel is back to, (serious music here) "Take on Preschool." 

Sometimes I actually wonder if Stossel is a secret advocate for the causes he is bashing, hoping to stir up feelings so that advocates for the targeted topic du jour will step up and make their voices heard. His penchant for obscuring the facts for good TV actually gets folks who know what they are talking about to start writing blogs and OpEd's that push the argument forward and bury the type of shallow arguments he presents. So, in a way, thanks Mr. Stossel. 


I learned about the Reason Foundation when I watched an inspiring segment on a Green Dot charter school in L.A. on the blog This Week in Education. After watching the piece on Locke High in the L.A. unified school district, I knew I needed to keep an eye on the Reason Foundation. I really don't have a problem with Reason.TV creating an anti preschool video. I don't care if they hire people to make fun of little kids improving their chances at a good education and releasing it on their website, Reason.TV. I think that is what an advocacy organization on either side of an issue should be doing these days; making viral videos that put their cause out there. What makes this Stossel piece so ugly is that it pretends to be news.

So, if we take this as serious news then I owe you, and Mr. Stossel, a rebuttal. I will put together my policy rebuttal this weekend but until then, I wanted you to have a chance to hear your own voices. Especially since you won't hear them reflected on Stossel's segment tonight.

You see, we at Inside Pre-K actually tried to get your voice into the 20/20 "news story" by asking you to submit your stories and share your child's pre-k experiences with ABC. My mistake for thinking that ABC news wanted to hear more than one side of the issue.

In the spirit of balanced journalism, here are some of your quotes. I can't include them all, but please know that we are listening.

Nan said,

I work for Head Start in WV as an Education Specialist. In our state, we collaborate with the county school systems to provide pre-K to as many children as we can. By 2012 it must be available to all who are age eligible.

Debbie said,

The number of children born with sensory and/or developmental problems are increasing due to substance abuse. In addition, working parents or stay-at-home parents seem to interact less frequently or less effectively with their children, than parents did in the past. Therefore, these children need pre-k to give them a "fighting chance" to succeed in kindergarten and future grades.

T. Hyatt said,

I can't really express how much my son grew socially from going, amongst other things. Starting out, he cried for a couple weeks until he finally got used to being around a group of other children, interacting with them. etc. From being there, he excelled faster than some other kids I knew of, whose parents didn't have theirs in Pre-K. He's in 3rd grade now and I'm proud to say that his teacher tells me he's one of the top in his class with his grades & reading skills. I do believe it had a lot to do with him starting out in Pre-k. The earlier they learn, the better.

My daughter, who attends now, absolutely loves it! She doesn't want to miss a day even when she's sick. She has a great teacher that she loves & I'm amazed by how much she has learned already from being there. So, in my honest opinion, I believe Pre-K to be a very beneficial experience for children.

Carolyn said,

 I am a firm believer in the Head Start Program, because of their "whole family approach", I myself am a Head Start success story (at least I feel that way) Head Start not only worked with my children they worked with me. When my youngest daughter started Head Start, I started as well. I was first employed as an assistant teacher, with in a year to a year and half, I received my CDA (child development) and was working as center teacher, next I completed an apprenticeship program through the Dept. of Labor, and then I completed an Associates degree in Childhood Education and Development, then a B.S. in Pre-k, K, and Preschool Special. I am currently working on my Masters in Special Education k-12 at GCU. I feel this may have not been possible without the encouragement of Head Start, because when my first daughter started I was a cashier at a local grocery store making minimum wage. I worked with Head Start almost ten years and this is my second school year with BOE. These young children need these services, and we need the funding in order to make them available. Young children are our future. One thing I often say is “it takes but one small pebble to create a ripple in the pond, that moves outward in a circular motion." What pre-k teachers do for these young students, affects every thing around them. I believe that pre-k programs should be on the top of everyone’s list. They are our future.

Jo said,

I have spent a lifetime wondering about education and achievement based on "forcing" children to start learning early, but every day I see positive changes from my youngest from being in this classroom group. Given what I have seen I would recommend early childhood group situations for every child that can attend.

It seems that Kindergarten is no longer the year of learning to learn in a social setting, rather it is learning reading and writing… what WE did in first grade. Learning to learn in a social setting is now the province of pre-K. For those children raised without the benefit of books, reading and conversations and the stimulation of exploration, starting Kindergarten without the boost provided by Pre-K is too often the start of no success in school and often in life as well.


March 17, 2009

Dear Lawmakers,

I am a professional in the field of child care services and also a parent of a 3 year-old child. I am writing to ask that you universally support the early childhood education initiatives of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) in Pennsylvania which includes funding increases for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Keystone STARS, Child Care Works, Early Intervention, and Nurse Family Partnership.

These programs are vitally important to our young children and their families. I will begin by talking about the Child Care Works Subsidized Daycare Program. This program has an extensive waiting list for many counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Many parents need child care, but cannot afford to pay the full cost. This issue causes many parents to quit or lose employment. Child Care Works funding gives our young children access to high quality early learning programs. For example, the Keystone STARS high quality initiative which holds child care programs to higher standards. It is crucial that all children have access to these types of high quality early learning programs.

The four Pennsylvania Pre-K counts sites in Monroe County have waiting lists for their for high quality programs. Pre-K Counts is closely linked to the Child Care Works Subsidy and Keystone STARS programs. The importance of Pre-K funding is clear because these experiences help prepare young children for kindergarten, school and ultimately for life.

The Nurse Family Partnership program speaks for itself because it educates mothers and families who are pregnant with their first baby and works with the family until the child is two years of age. This program is especially necessary because it targets pregnant teenagers and low income families with limited financial resources.

I will use my family’s experience with Early Intervention to illustrate the importance of this program. My wife and I were very concerned about our daughter’s development at the age of one year. Our daughter was not talking or pointing to objects at this age. We decided to have her screened by Early Intervention. She was found to have a delay in the areas of Speech and Language, which made her eligible for Early Intervention services.

Our daughter has since been discharged from Speech Therapy and attends a high quality preschool program five days per week. She is developmentally on track. Our daughter would not be where she is at 3.5 years of age had it not been for the Early Intervention services that my family received. We are very thankful for this great program.

In conclusion, all five programs are vitally important to the social, cognitive, and emotional development of our young children. Increased and sustained funding for these programs will give more children access to high quality infant, toddler, and preschool programs and every child regardless of their family’s financial situation deserve a fair chance even before they enter Kindergarten. Increased and sustained funding for these programs is a great investment and will benefit the future of our society.


Robert Edler
570-420-3590 x3260

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