Sunday, June 9, 2013

Strong Families: A Link to Success

Today at church I was talking to some of my friends about my brush with fame with Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

It all started when I read this editorial  in our local paper in 2005

Printed in San Gabriel Valley Tribune Opinion Section on Friday, February 18, 2005

Preschool a link to success

THE link between preschool and success in adulthood is pretty elementary. The corollaries are predictable, and potent. Kids who go are much more likely to get a head start on learning and good, lifelong habits. Kids who don't are less likely to graduate from high school and twice as likely to become career criminals.

The lesson? More preschools are needed so that all children from families of all socioeconomic groups can attend if they so choose. This can be done by increasing the allotment of funds by First 5 California to help start new preschools or expand existing ones in the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier areas.

Passed in November 1998, Proposition 10, which funds First 5, added a 50-cent-per-pack tax to cigarettes sold in the state. The money, about $700 million annually, is used to fund early childhood development programs.

A just-released report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California found that the state is severely lacking in availability of preschool programs.

Preschool, perhaps the best crime-prevention tool, especially for at-risk kids, often isn't available where it's needed most. For every 10 students enrolled in preschool programs statewide, four are turned away. Many preschool programs in Los Angeles County have waiting lists. Some are out of sight, out of mind for many poor families.

And it's low-income families that most often are out of luck. Children from higher-income families are 50 percent more likely to enroll in preschool.

Twenty-four percent of the state's 3- and 4-year-olds are unable to attend preschool.
It's an injustice that Fight Crime, a statewide coalition of law enforcement agencies, as well as First 5 California, are seeking to correct.

The advantages of preschool aren't lost on state educators, either. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, in his statewide education address last month, proposed universal preschool, replete with standards for what all preschoolers should learn and a credentials program for preschool teachers. We still believe parents ought to make that choice but that more and more are seeking preschools for their children.
The knowledge and learning skills developed in preschool even could close the achievement gap that often leaves blacks, Latinos, the poor and the disabled lagging in standardized test scores, O'Connell said.

There are many obstacles to increasing preschool classrooms. Space, parking, and even neighbors who don't like the use in their back yard are just a few of the problems. That's why First 5 has tried to focus on expanding existing programs.
Still, it is a worthwhile effort. For every dollar spent on preschool, the public will save $17 in costs from crime and social services down the line, according to Fight Crime's analysis.

Preschool could be a smart investment and one that should be considered.

Below is my response editorial which was published in the Pasadena Star News Opinion Section on March 1, 2005 and the San Gabriel Tribune on March 28, 2005:

Strong Families: A Link to Success

I disagree with your editorial, “Preschool a link to success”!  What’s ironic about my position is that I have a degree in early childhood education.  Purposefully, none of my six children went to preschool.  None of my children are criminals.  In fact, they are successful students in elementary, high school, college, and graduate school.  Two are college graduates.  So far, they are all well adjusted, for which I am grateful.

Early in our marriage, I supported my husband as he pursued advanced education.  This allowed him to secure an adequate paying job to support our family, and gave me the privilege to be a stay-at-home mother.  When my children were preschool age, I took them to story hour at our local library.  At home we listened to music, made crafts, went on walks, and made cookies.  We planted a vegetable garden, read books, did chores, and wrote letters to grandparents.

Could it be that the statistics that favor preschool are in reality linked to broken homes and absentee parenting?   I believe that in order to prepare young children for a successful kindergarten and beyond, it is the parent who needs to be in the home nurturing and teaching them, and not relegating this responsibility to a preschool.

I acknowledge that some family circumstances are different than mine. Single parents have fewer choices.  In doing the best they can, they may have to turn to preschool.  Yet, this needs to be the exception and not the rule.

Wise teaching and disciplining of young children by their own parent is really the smart investment that should be considered, not preschool.

Kathleen Magnusson
Duarte, California

Unbeknownst to me, someone sent my editorial to Dr. Laura.   She read it on her radio program on April 7, 2005 and again on June 21, 2006.   My daughters laugh about Dr. Laura's commentary after she read my editorial.  Dr. Laura said, "And this lady has a degree" insinuating that I know what I'm talking about because of my Degree in Early Childhood Education.  I know about this subject because my mom was my "preschool" teacher. 

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