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A Couple of Pre-K Thoughts

I should start with a disclaimer. One of my kids enjoyed a free preschool program, and the other is currently enjoying it. It is a fantastic program at an APS high school with high school kids learning about education while teaching preschoolers. The program only meets three days a week for about three hours each day.

I am sharing this because my sons’ experience, as well as a brief stint I had as a kindergarten teacher, have a lot to do with my feelings about HB 337, The Pre-Kindergarten Act. Preschool is a good thing. It introduces children to the concept of school and gets them used to the dynamics. When I taught a kindergarten class, it was easy to pick out the kids who had had some sort of pre-k experience.

However, what has been introduced is not pre-k so much as it government run daycare with a licensed teacher. Kids don’t need to be in a preschool program every day of the week to get the benefit of the program, and based on which “teachers” my kids spend the most time talking about, the programs don’t have to be run by certificated teachers.

So, let me make a suggestion. If your really want the best for New Mexico’s kids, then amend this bill so every parent in New Mexico with a preschool age child can get a voucher to use at whatever public or private preschool program they want. Make the voucher for enough to cover three, three hour days of preschool for an eight month period. If you don’t do this, we’re sure to see more fiascos like this one (subscription):

Albuquerque Public Schools awarded a $387,000 state grant to Youth Development Inc. Head Start and the city to provide full-day preschool to 80 children without allowing private providers an opportunity to bid on the grant.

APS officials said time limitations caused them to select “entities we already had relationships with,” saying there were “no real mechanisms” in place to extend the grant to all providers.

Private providers say they have good, accredited programs, room in their facilities and are ready to work with the state, but they’re not being asked.

Let me be clear, our kids don’t need to be in full day preschool. That is not preschool. That is daycare, and it may even be detrimental to the children’s health. As long as I’m stating the obvious, let me also point out that the any business group pushing the current pre-k legislation is out of line. If the business community, of which I am a member, wants $9 million a year spent on early childhood education, because we believe it is in our own best interest, then we should pony up and provide our own funding for a preschool voucher program.

For the record, I’ll put my money where my mouth is, and you can count me in for a $1,000 for the business community sponsored preschool voucher program. Just send me an email and let me know where to send the check.