Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Once again, the perfect is the enemy of the good

Meathead has put together the "perfect" package -- soak the rich, give all children a "perfect" preschool (not college, preschool) education. The only problem, as detailed in this article, is that it sets ridiculous standards for teaching the wee tots, and destroys successful, existing childcare programs:

Celebrities with a social conscience are a growing breed in Hollywood. But it would be nice if they'd stick to whales and landmines and leave our children alone. Unfortunately, California parents have no such luck. Movie director turned child advocate Rob Reiner--best known for playing the role of 'Meathead' on 'All in the Family'--recently acquired a million signatures to put his Preschool for All initiative on the California ballot next June, his second attempt to launch a 'universal' preschool program. The initiative would impose a 1.7% income tax on couples making over $800,000 a year ($400,000 for individuals) to offer three hours of free preschool for all the state's 4-year-olds. This soak-the-rich scheme would put $2.3 billion into the state's coffers. But the people most dreading Mr. Reiner's latest foray are not the superrich, who would no doubt find ways to dodge--by moving out of the state if necessary--what would effectively be a 19% increase in their tax rate. The real victims would be low- to middle-income women who run nearly all private early-care centers that comprise 70% of California's child-care industry. The onerous credentialing requirements and union mandates that the initiative would trigger would devastate the industry's entrepreneurs without improving instruction one iota. Consider Cynthia Leahy, founder of Montessori Schools of Fremont. She started her first center 30 years ago in a small Sunday school with nothing except her Montessori training and her 'sweat equity,' she says. From these humble beginnings, she has created a thriving little Montessori empire consisting of five schools catering to 400 kids of all age groups from infants to high-schoolers. She employs 68 people, 80% of whom are minorities, a reflection of the predominantly nonwhite, professional, immigrant community that is so typical of Silicon Valley. But she fears that the Reiner initiative would make it impossible for private Montessori schools to survive and throw her life's work into jeopardy--not to mention the livelihood of her staff. The initiative would require all preschool teachers to obtain both a bachelor's degree and a one-year certificate in early childhood development by 2014. All of Ms. Leahy's teachers already have bachelor's and even master's degrees, followed by a very intense training in the Montessori method. Asking these teachers to spend thousands of dollars to return to school for a certificate that is of zero value in their classrooms is ridiculous. Ms. Leahy fears that this would prompt moms on her staff to quit along with others who are close to retirement, leaving her with a disproportionate number of younger, inexperienced teachers.
Keep in mind that we're talking about pre-schoolers here. Ms Rose's bachelor's degree in comparative literature isn't really going to matter when she's reading little Johnny the PC version of "Good Night Moon." Same for Ms Faye's degree in business administration, something that just isn't going to resonate with the two 3 year olds struggling for control over the swing in the playground. So, one asks, as one so often does these days: "What planet do these people come from?"