Thursday, October 17, 2013

New York Times Wrong about Government Childcare Delivering

When it comes to government-run childcare and preschool, the delivery is worth all the labor pains—so says University of Massachusetts, Amherst, economics professor emerita Nancy Folbre in her recent New York Times article.

Folbre’s sentiment reflects that of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who insists America has an early childcare and education “crisis” that threatens our economy. The solution, according to Pelosi and Folbre, is to adopt President Obama’s universal government-run preschool and childcare plan for all three- and four-year-olds.

Yet there’s scant evidence that expanding government would improve the quality of care, student learning, or affordability—much less the economy.

Three out of five mothers with preschool age children are employed, the vast majority of full-time. Almost half of all young children with employed mothers are cared for by relatives—a consistent pattern for decades. But is this situation a “crisis,” as Pelosi suggests, or a choice?

Parents from all walks of life choose child care based on their desire for nurturing providers, safe environments, convenient locations, and educational activities. Not surprisingly, employed mothers actively choose family members to watch their young children—especially in light of research indicating that children who spend extended periods in day care are more likely to display aggression and other problem behaviors.

The Democrats’ plan also ignores the preschool preferences of employed mothers. Fully 68 percent of preschoolers with employed mothers are in programs already, and most (64 percent) are enrolled full time. There’s no evidence to suggest that the rest of employed mothers even want their children in school at such a young age.

Expanding government’s role is more likely to impose expensive administrative burdens, crowd out innovative, personalized non-government childcare providers, and replace a variety of preschool options with a one-size-fits-all system.

To get an idea of the quality of care preschoolers would likely receive at the hands of government look at Head Start. Launched in 1965 as a six-week summer catch-up program for disadvantaged students about to enter kindergarten, today nearly 1 million children are enrolled at an annual cost of nearly $8 billion.

According to the two latest official evaluations, any academic impacts faded out as early as the end of first grade, and others dissipated by the end of third grade.

If impacts of government-run preschool fade out within a few years, how is it supposed to boost the economy?

There are better ways to help parents afford child care and early education. For starters, parents should be allowed to deduct 100 percent of their childcare costs, rather than depend on federal subsidies. Instead of funneling more money into Head Start, which advocates say should be expanded to parents of all income levels not just those in poverty, funds should be deposited on a per-student basis into Early Education Savings Accounts (EESAs) modeled after Arizona’s successful K-12 ESA program. With those funds low-income parents could choose their preferred preschool option.

States should also consider enacting Early Education Tax Credit scholarship programs, which would allow individual and corporate taxpayers to claim a dollar-for-dollar credit against their taxes for donations to non-profit organizations that award scholarships for children to attend the preschool program of their parents’ choice.

Pelosi and other advocates of more government child care should also recall that millions of parents make sacrifices to keep a spouse at home because they believe that’s best for their children. Government programs that push institutional care devalue these parents’ choices.

Policymakers shouldn’t just be trying to ease the financial burden for families who choose institutional daycare and preschool: They should be lowering taxes across the board so all families can keep more of what they earn.

At a time when one in eight Americans is un- or underemployed and the national debt is mounting, spending trillions of dollars more to further expand government into early child care and education makes no sense. Women want the benefits of a diverse economy, and employed mothers want their children to have diverse early care and learning opportunities—not more wasteful, ineffective government programs.


Invite ALL the class to birthday parties: 'Inclusive' prep school's diktat to parents

A headmaster has told parents to invite the whole class when their child has a birthday party – to avoid upsetting those left out.  Mark Brearey says including only a smaller circle of friends is ‘divisive and unkind’ to other pupils.

A letter from the private mixed preparatory school to parents says its Christian ethic is about being inclusive.

But yesterday critics said his policy would only drive up the cost of children’s parties.

Mr Brearey, head of Kingswood Preparatory School in Bath, wrote a letter to parents in which he asked: ‘Please could you avoid bringing any party invitations into school that do not include all children in a particular class or year group. This goes completely against our policy of inclusion for every single child and is divisive and unkind.’

Parents criticised the decision, with several using Facebook to call it ‘ridiculous’. Michela Helen Mills said: ‘I think children should be allowed to hand out invites and the head teachers should bear in mind that not all parents can afford to invite the whole class – some classes have 20+ in each class.’

Joanne Oliver said: ‘Kids should invite their friends in numbers the parents have budgeted for. Why invite a kid who’s been harassing you at school all term?’

Jo Whittock added: ‘Most parents do a party on a budget so cannot afford to invite all in the class. Also if you have a theme party you are sometimes limited to a certain number. Kids have to learn that they can’t have everything.’

But several parents came to Mr Brearey’s defence.

Nicholas Roper said: ‘He’s not forcing parents to host 30+ kids, just don’t hand out the invites at school.

‘Teaching kids is hard enough without extra drama in the classroom.’ Yesterday Mr Brearey said he stood by his decision, which was designed to prevent children who are left out feeling upset.

‘We consider kindness to be one of the key values of our school,’ he said.

‘What we are saying is that actually handing over party invitations to some of the group in front of people is not the way we would like it to happen. 99.9 per cent of our parents are in total agreement with that.’

He said that if parents wanted to invite just a few of their child’s friends, they should do it privately, adding: ‘Do it by email, not in a public place where you find one or two or three people are left.

‘If children feel like they have been left out by one of the class it can have a serious impact and it is something that doesn’t need to happen. Why choose to exclude in a public context when you don’t need to?’

At the school yesterday, parents appeared to back the headmaster’s stance.  One, a mother of three who requested not to be named, said: ‘It is not nice to leave people out.  ‘I usually invite the whole class until they have really made close friends, but when they are older you just ring the other mums.’

A mother of eight-year-old twins said parents understood the rule. ‘We just tell the children about the party outside of school. It would be too many to invite the whole class.’

The school, which costs £19,818 a year for boarders and up to £10,602 year for day pupils, was opened by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in 1748 for the sons of Methodist clergymen.

It has 306 pupils aged three to 11 and ‘seeks to be a caring community based upon Christian principles’.


British teenager suspended after teachers mistook her non-alcoholic shandy she bought to class for a bottle of lager

A teenager has been suspended from school after teachers mistook her non-alcoholic shandy for a bottle of lager.

Nikita Morrison, 13, was in a French lesson when she put the bottle of Ben Shaw’s Bitter Shandy on her desk while unpacking her school books.

But teachers immediately confiscated the 500ml drink and within minutes she was sent home after being excluded for three days.

She claims staff at Gloucester Academy considered the soft drink to be alcohol - despite the product’s website stating it is suitable for children.

The alcohol content of the drink is less than 0.5 per cent - not enough to legally qualify as an intoxicating liquor and it is sold in the soft drinks aisle in shops.

Ms Morrison, who has never been excluded before, said: ‘I couldn’t believe it.

‘You see kids at school drinking it all the time, even the Year 7s, there is nothing wrong with it.

‘The teachers told me I wasn’t allowed to bring it into school because it is lager. I told them it was pop but they just wouldn’t listen.’

Ben Shaw’s Bitter Shandy contains 12 per cent beer but is sold in the soft drink aisle in shops.  No ID is needed to buy it and it is officially classed as a soft drink by the UK Food Standards Agency.

Her mother Amanda, 38, said the incident on Wednesday was ‘absolutely ludicrous’.  ‘It is absurd, the staff were saying it was alcohol.

‘She has missed quite a few lessons now, it is ridiculous. She is special needs so she is dropping behind even more.

‘It find it absolutely ludicrous that she is missing out on education because of a bottle of pop.

‘Despite the fact we have explained, and proven, that it is not alcohol the school won’t listen at all.’

The stay-at-home mum-of-nine added: ‘There is nothing wrong with taking that drink into school at all.

‘I tried to explain that it was my mistake and I bought it from the supermarket but that was not good enough.’

Alan Armstrong, interim headteacher at Gloucester Academy, defended the exclusion.

He said: ‘This school and all schools never exclude a student lightly or for trivial reasons. Schools have a duty of care to ensure all students are kept safe.’

A Ben Shaw’s spokesman said: ‘Shandies with less than 0.5 per cent alcohol by volume are defined as soft drinks and as such have no restriction on their sale or consumption.

‘All products we manufacture under the shandy name are less than 0.5 per cent and this is stated on labelling.’


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