...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Thursday, October 09, 2003
      ( 10:51 AM )
The Path of Destruction Includes our Children

I blogged earlier this week about how the Bush Administration is, indeed, leaving children behind. The "reforms" this president intends wreak upon the education system of this country will not help schools or children and will only further chip away at the opportunities for the most vulnerable of our society. In addition to his uber-force-testing, un-funded Leave No Child Behind mandate, he also intends to dismantle Early Head Start.

Why is Head Start so successful and so important? The Nation article by Jennifer Niesslein gives us good insight.

Those familiar with Head Start attribute its
effectiveness to just how comprehensive it is. A
child in Head Start benefits not only from time in
the classroom but also from required parental
involvement, healthcare screenings and follow-ups
(including vaccinations and dental care), nutritious
meals and help with special needs.

This is an incredible need in this country, especially with the amount of children in poor families, and children without health coverage (a crime, in my estimation, that the government should have to pay for by each and every elected official going without health care coverage until all Americans, at least all children, have it). Head Start is unique because it is so well-rounded and prepares children not only for school, but gives them social nurturing, and sometimes their only solid meals in a day. But George Bush thinks that's dumb. What three year olds need is to READ. All this "taking care of their needs" crap has got to go.

Bush isn't giving up the I-love-the-kiddies rhetoric;
in fact, he insists, his heart is downright bursting with
love and hope for them. "We want Head Start to set
higher ambitions for the million children it serves....
There hasn't been a proper focus on the little children,"
he said. "In my line of work, you see a problem, you
address it."

But what problem does George Bush see with Head Start? Could it possibly be a politically motivated bend in the statistics to prove his corporate handlers' case?

John Boehner, chair of the House education
committee, seems to think so. "Head Start's
graduates beginning kindergarten are more than
25 percentile points below in average skills like
recognizing letters, numbers, shapes and colors.
Too many children in Head Start are being left behind."

But if you ask, "Below what? Behind whom?" you'll
find a statistical sleight of hand. While Head Start
grads are not scoring as well as their more affluent
counterparts, they do score higher than kids who
come from the same socioeconomic background
but who didn't participate in Head Start. Simply put,
the program works. And if kids from low-income
families aren't scoring as high as kids in the suburban
middle class, it's because teachers and other services
can only do so much.

The conservatives/republicans in Congress and the White House talk a good game about taking care of this nation's children and finding homes for the homeless kids and food for the hungry kids. But where is the legislation making it easier for homeless families to find homes? Where is the legislation mandating and funding food for all children? Where is the provision for the health care for these vulnerable ones who are our future?

It's double talk at its worst because it hurts the ones who can't fight back. The President has decided unilaterally that it is not the federal government's job to provide services and aid to our children. He has put financial burdens on states until they are almost all bankrupt from the unfunded mandates that have come out of this White House. And yet, he proposes to do the same with Head Start.

A Head Start bill supported by the White House
would essentially do away with comprehensive
services by eliminating the federal role in
administering the program. Through a block grant,
it would give eight states control of running early
childhood programs... Moreover, the language
about what range of services the states need
to provide is vague.

So already struggling states, who are taking away money from the k-12 kids and from the state colleges are going to pay for 3 year olds? Who do you think will get cut first? But all these comprehenisive services and care for children aren't important to Bush. No, what's important is SCHOOL READINESS (translate: STANDARDIZED TEST READINESS). He thinks that three year olds should instead be learning to read and do other educational skills so that they are prepared for kindergarten (where, likely he feels that the 5 year olds should be ready for their first standardized test by then). Literacy for three year olds. That is the goal of dismantling a program for that for years has given children who wouldn't otherwise have had a chance the opportunity to go further than they or their parents could have dreamed. Sure, Head Start like any beaurocratic organization, could use some streamlining and some new and modern operations changes. But do away with it? If this were a logical government or country, we would be doing everything we could to make it better and EXPAND it for all young children who need it (currently it can only support 60% of qualified children).

Niesslein concludes:

The real issue here is that despite all the talk
about accountability, Bush conservatives don't
want the federal government to be accountable
for anything, especially anything related to poverty.

About time we changed that, isn't it? I urge you to write to your congressperson or senator and tell them, plead with them, not to pass this Head Start legislation. It will do so much more harm to our neediest of children. It doesn't take long to write a letter or send an email. We are the only ones who can stand up for this issue. The children have no voice. We have to be the voice for them, or what legacy are we leaving our own children?

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