Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where next for ready-4-K? 

The failure of Proposition 82 in California -- the universal preschool initiative -- plants seeds for new ideas. Rather than Prop 82's one-size-fits-all approach to early childhood ed, there needs to be a variety of pre-school programs, various types of providers, and recognizing that some kids (predominantly children from poor families) need more intensive preschool than others.
Ironically, universal preschool's opponents have already helped lay some of the political groundwork to support incremental steps toward universal preschool access. During the campaign, many acknowledged that preschool benefits poor children, and said they supported publicly funded preschool for low-income youngsters, but opposed funding preschool for middle-class children. Now that the campaign is over, preschool advocates should hold these individuals accountable for their words and push for publicly funded preschool for all low-income children. Such investments would help provide funding to build the state's preschool infrastructure.
Equally ironic, then, is the pissiness of local Ready4K people over a veto from Governor Pawlenty of money to create a rating system for preschools and child care providers. Pawlenty's reasoning was that it was input driven, and did not test whether kids were actually getting ready for kindergarten. Looking at the goals of Ready4K I see "It is about having RESOURCES AND ACCOUNTABILITY to implement effective strategies and be accountable for results." So how does rating whether a preschool teacher has a college degree create that accountability, and how does it tie resources to successful programs?

Prop 82's death was timely, as was Pawlenty's veto. It focuses on local decisionmaking and assessment.