The Missing Links to the Future

Today, 70% of Child Care Facilities Impair
Learning Ability of Children; 50% of Students
Can’t Graduate From High School


An Introduction

November, 1999

Words are keys to understanding or can be used to obscure it.

Those who understand the critical link between quality childcare and a more successful public school, know that without the first we will never achieve the second. They are heartened to hear increasing calls for more money for child care subsidies and for teacher training, even as they recognize that “more money” may in fact worsen an already bad situation in both areas.

Calling for “more money” to support child care facilities which impair our children’s ability to learn in school, makes no sense. Calling for “more money” to support classroom practices which fail to graduate half of our high school students and fail to teach two-thirds of our elementary school students to read and do arithmetic at grade level, makes no sense. Yet we continue to call for “more money” to support these failed programs without addressing and questioning the ways that money is spent. By doing so, we’ll never rescue our child care and public school systems from failure.

In the following Policy Statement on Child Care and Education, the Liberal Party pointedly indicates that America’s child care and public school systems are failing the children in their care. We see a child care system as successful at “babysitting” (most Americans still think of child care as “babysitting”) but otherwise view it as terrible because it may be dangerous. A respected study that shows that 70% of these facilities have been found to impair the ability of the children in their care to learn in school, has never been challenged.

We hear a constant call for more effective teacher training programs and know now that the New York City Public School system’s professional staff development program for its teachers is haphazard at best, and most often chaotic, despite the talents and desires of those in charge. But the problem of why teachers can’t seem to teach today’s children has a significant cause that has been overlooked. We state plainly that Schools of Education are not properly training our teachers and arrogantly refusing to change their ways. We see these institutions conducting themselves as monopolistic businesses – concerned first with “filling seats” – yet free from the responsibility of being successful business. If a business cannot produce a good product or service, it fails. The Schools of Education refuse to do what must be done – insist that their professors learn how to teach the techniques that will help teachers to reach today’s children – and so are failing to produce teachers who are prepared to teach. While the failure is clear to everyone, Schools of Education have not been held primarily responsible.

Attempts to make up this educational short-fall through “in service education” fall far short of the mark. The New York City Board of Education has noted that the system does not have a comprehensive professional development program to offer its teachers. Nor does it have a united, system-wide program!

We look directly at ways to help the millions of children who still cannot read or write at grade level, and recommend the one approach which is far more successful and cost effective than any other an approach essentially ignored in most public schools throughout New York and the nation.

Because so much of public education and child care depends upon public funding from one government level or another, politicians are involved. Because “Education” has shown up on the political radar as an issue that the public is deeply concerned about, politicians have taken a direct hand in trying to make changes that work. Almost all have failed because they do not have the experience to correctly respond to the advice they receive. Because they do not understand enough about the system to know where changes should be made, they do not hire the people they really need. Simply hiring (another) new city school Chancellor or State Director of Education hasn’t worked. The new person is a careerist in the very system that must be changed and must face a bureaucracy that doesn’t want to change. He/she may have an agenda for change (or not), but that agenda is usually overridden by the bureaucracy. The politicians, who might be of some help, never understand the dynamic – until it’s too late. And so the answer they rely on is to hear the ‘cries for help’ as pleas for more money. And they provide “more money” for failed programs and systems. Endlessly sad…but true!

What we have done here is provide specifics from an experienced knowledge base which is neither “political” in nature nor supportive of the new approaches that sound good – but aren’t working. Our Policy Statements on Child Care and Education are clearly works-in-progress. Even in that state, they call for very major changes in the ways both fields do business. We concentrate first on what will work to help children. We seek to support, not criticize those professionals who need help to do their job. We believe that progressive and knowledgeable professionals in early childhood development and public education support our stance on both important issues.