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Posts Tagged ‘Parent engagement’

Idaho State GOP Legislators Reject Pre-School Funding Championed by Trump, GOP Governor, GOP Senators. Why? Because Pre-Schools are Converting Kids into Liberal Activists.

March 9, 2021 Comments off

In a story that defies logic but hews to the paranoid narrative of some conspiracists, Idaho legislators are turning down a $6,000,000 grant to provide pre-school preparation to 15 communities in the State. The grant, which was sought and promoted by GOP leaders at the national and state level, has fallen prey to a bizarre and baseless conspiracy theory promoted by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). Here’s the grant’s background, as described in Scott McIntosh’s editorial in the Idaho Statesman:

The federal funding is part of a multiyear grant that started under the Trump administration. Idaho Gov. Brad Little, who has set early literacy as one of his top priorities, approved Idaho to pursue the grant in 2019.

Idaho’s Republican U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo support the grant and voiced that support in a joint video statement in February.

The $6 million in funding that legislators rejected last week is the latest phase of the “preschool development grant,” which organizers say is a misnomer because Idaho is not developing a pre-K program. Rather, preschool means just that, helping children before they start school.

Idaho already received $3.3 million in grant funding in 2019 to establish local collaboratives in 15 communities around the state, from American Falls, Idaho City, Coeur d’Alene and Murtaugh to Juliaetta, Kuna, Fremont, Kendrick, Nampa and more.

The Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children was designated as the state’s grant facilitator.

It’s the last sentence that led to the conspiracy theory. You see the IFF mistakenly asserted that the IDAHO Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) was beholden to the NATIONAL Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) and that the NATIONAL AEYC was promoting a liberal agenda… no… make that mandating a liberal agenda. Both of these assertions are false. But the IFF and their GOP adherents are not convinced! Mr. McIntsoh writes:

The Idaho Freedom Foundation suggested that this federal grant would be used to “indoctrinate” Idaho’s children with “social justice ideology,” “critical race theory,” transgender rights and teach them how to be “activists.”

“The central idea of these activities is that young children are increasingly acclimated to becoming activists and will be comfortable organizing for progressive leftist causes as they get older,” Idaho Freedom Foundation’s education policy expert Anna Miller wrote in a piece posted just a few days before the vote.

I’m no “policy expert”, but I would tend to believe Idahoans who are operating theses programs overseen by local boards have to say about the programming offered under existing grants. And here’s what THEY have to report:

The goal of the grant is to improve literacy and prepare children ages 0-5 for school. It’s as simple as that.

“The whole focus of the grant is family engagement and supporting families with young children,” Beth Oppenheimer, Idaho AEYC executive director said. “This is about school readiness and literacy. Nothing more, nothing less.”

In Idaho, the local collaboratives make decisions on a local level on how best to achieve those goals, Oppenheimer said.

“We’re not coming in and telling these communities what to do,” Oppenheimer said. “We’re coming in and helping them navigate leaders within their community to develop early learning communities.”

Ms. Oppenheimer emphasized that the IDAHO AEYC is in no way connected with the NATIONAL AEYC and NEITHER organization promotes the kind of brainwashing the IFF believes is occurring.
And here’e what I find sad: the elected State GOP is adopting the narrative promoted by a special interest lobbying group over the FACTS presented by their GOP colleague in the State House, their elected Federal legislators, and the President they elected in 2016. Despite the conduct of this legislature, I do retain faith in Democracy and, in so doing, would expect the 15 communities who were denied funding to help their prepare their children for school will vote these legislators out of office. The GOP governor, the GOP Senators and House members, and, yes, even the former GOP President were all doing the right thing for the children in the state. It’s time for STATE officials to follow their lead.

Three Conservative Principles for Education that Make Sense… Too Bad the GOP Has Abandoned Them

March 7, 2021 Comments off

In January, conservative writers Frederick Hess and Michael McShane wrote an op ed piece for Newsweek that presented three conservative principles for education that resonated with me and could serve as the basis for bi-partisan legislation that would change the dialogue on schools. Given the writers’ ultimate goal of expanding school choice, I am not sure that is the direction they are hoping to head… but it IS a direction their principals COULD lead. The three principles they set forth are: 

  1. The Family is the Foundation
  2. Schools are Formative, Not Performative Institutions
  3. Conservatives Should be Confident Pluralists

The first principle– that families are the foundation of good schooling– is irrefutable. Children who succeed in school do so in large measure because their parents are engaged in their learning in and out of school. The writers accurately observe that “…the family in America is struggling (and) conservatives should fight to make child-rearing easier.” But the authors solution is “…to put parents in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing the best options for child care, preschool and K-12 education.” That “drivers seat” is wonderful for parents who AREN”T struggling. The parents who live in a decent home, have enough money to provide food for their children, and have the time necessary to give their children the attention they need, and the have access to the “options for child care, preschool and K-12 education”.  If conservatives want to fight to make child rearing easier, they could join their colleagues who want to provide affordable housing and put an end to food insecurity. If those two steps were taken would make child rearing easier for homeless parents and the 13.6 percent of households who experience food insecurity. 

The second principle about the nature of schooling was surprising. The writers believe, as I do and most progressive educators so, that schools are “…supposed to shape students into young adults who can reason, think and grow into responsible citizens.”   Given that desired outcome, it is a mystery why there is bipartisan support for standardized testing, which focuses on convergent thinking. The writers, though, are more concerned with the alleged indoctrination that occurs in schools. Instead of being concerned with the narrow curriculum that results from the focus on test scores and the obsession of schools to prepare students for work, they are concerned with the preponderance of teachers and professors who orient the zeal of young students “… to advance personal and ideological agendas.” If conservatives want to focus on the FORMATIVE aspects of schooling, they should be joining their colleagues who want to abandon SUMMATIVE testing and restore the focus on individual progress— FORMATIVE development– that is best measured and monitored by classroom teachers. 

The third principle, a focus on pluralism, is clearly aligned with the direction progressive educators would like to head. Indeed, this section of the essay could come from any advocate for pregressive schools:

There may be optimal strategies for teaching youngsters to read, but the vast majority of what happens in schools and classrooms can be done effectively in many different ways. We should allow parents and educators in varied situations and different communities to create the schools that best meet the needs of their children. Public dollars for education should equitably support a wide array of options.

That is the “pluralism” part. The “confident” part means taking a stand for what we think is right. Saying that the government won’t discriminate against a particular viewpoint doesn’t mean that we endorse it. We should still critique it and offer better alternatives. But a choice-centric, pluralist vision requires an environment that welcomes many different visions, even those we find wrong-headed.

This position is difficult to reconcile with the GOP’s thinking on phonics only, the rejection of the 1619 curriculum, the advocacy for the 1776 curriculum and their laments about teachers who want to share their “…personal and ideological agendas”. The “choice-centric, pluralist vision” the writers seek is not within the context of a pluralistic public education system. They want the opportunity to have, say, an opportunity for those who share common views to choose a school that aligns with their way of thinking as opposed to having a school that offers students a wide range of perspectives that they can learn from. 

The essay by Mr. Hess and Mr. McShane DOES reveal some common ground, though. Instead of focussing on the differences of opinion that emerge as one elaborates on the principles, MAYBE the political parties can engage attempting to build on their commonalities. 

Want to Know Why Community Schools are a Good Idea? Read This Post

February 20, 2021 Comments off

Actually, you really need to read this post by In the Public Interest’s blogger Jeremy Mohler, who interviewed Paula Oxoby-Hayett, community school coordinator at Enos Garcia Elementary in Taos, New Mexico. If EVERY school serving underprivileged children had someone like this it would be possible to lend a helping hand to thousands of families and even more children. And please don’t tell me we “can’t afford this”. We can, after all, afford police in 58% of our schools. We can clearly afford community outreach coordinators in those schools— maybe even INSTEAD of police.