By: Judy Lyden
Yet when a preschool experience is spoken of, few know what that really means or are able or willing to talk about it. Money! The demand is money and only money will satisfy this horrific need, so we absolutely must raise taxes. Apparently, getting political makes people feel better – it makes them feel as if they've done something. They rail against one party or another with threats and promises of more and more money spent on the thing we know very little about.
What do you really need to set up an early childhood classroom?
You need a teacher and everyone knows preschool teachers make about $10.00 an hour, so that can't possible be the big price tag.
You need a classroom. Most schools can find one. So that can't be the big spend.
You need little chairs – but the kindergarten already has an abundance of tables and chairs, crayons, paper, glue, clay and toys. So that can't be it.
Curriculum – now that's a bigger problem. Let's see. You need about 100 books, clay, paint, a globe, some toys – didn't we already do this?
So where's the expense? Why is a multibillion dollar extravaganza looming like an avalanche? Beats me.
When my partner and I started our school, we each had $80. Today we own a building, a bunch of toys, a big library, and lots of clay and other art supplies –lots of it donated. We also have a cat, four rabbits, a herd of guinea pigs, and love birds. But that's only one school you say. And with another $80 we could build another, and another, and another and so could anyone else.
When you start small and think small, personal, person to person scale, it starts like a home and naturally grows like a family grows a little at a time – manageable, steady, and comfortable. How many families do you know start marriage with a house, furniture, cars, and six children? Most don't. They start out dreaming and that dream becomes reality when something called "do" and "work" combine.
It's the same with education. One of the best told stories is Catholic Education. It started small, personal, individual and it grew into a magnificent structure serving people world wide. Only when Catholic Education tries to become big and important like the state does it fail and do people run for their lives.
It seems to me that every public school that would like to start a preschool should begin small and family friendly. "We have ten spaces this year and perhaps next year…" First enroll, first serve. Make it tuition based and it becomes a fund raiser rather than a fund user. People are willing to pay tuition at day care, why not at pre-school?
Maybe public education should invite already established preschools into their public arena and integrate the private and the public worlds of education.
Perhaps people should pay across the board for early public education beginning with preschool and ending with first grade – the pre-reading years. With a teacher in the classroom rather than a day care provider who may spend six weeks in a limbo job, children might actually learn something. There would be great continuity, and parents would have a one drop spot.