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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Pre-K on the Range

oklahoma-state-sealIn November/December 2012, The American Prospect issued an article called “Pre-K on the range” in which Sharon Lerner looks at the early education system in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s highly developed early education programs offer important opportunities for young students, thanks to legislation that has been passed in support of early education. Even though Oklahoma is one of the reddest states in the country, it made early education reform a centerpiece of the state’s progress. In 1998, State Representative Joe Eddins persuaded his fellow legislators to pass a bill that involved collaboration with Head Start, but they did not realize that he was advocating for coordination between Head Start providers like the Community Action Project (CAP) and other preschool programs. Once the bill was made into law, it was praised as a milestone in early education achievement. Because of Eddins’ dedication to expanding preschool education, nearly 75% of the preschool-age students in his district are enrolled in a program. Oklahoma’s early educators are required to have a bachelor’s degree as well as an early education certification, ensuring that they are qualified to provide high-quality early education to their charges. They also make around the same as elementary and high school teachers. Since many early educators throughout the nation are often underpaid and underappreciated, it is refreshing to see a state rewarding them for their hard work in the classroom and during the formative years of young children’s lives. Oklahoma has also revolutionized how parents take part in their children’s education. For example, in Tulsa, OK, the CAP encourages parents to be as engaged as possible with their children’s school. The schools consciously decided to not provide busing service for students so that parents would have to physically come to the school each day to drop off and pick up their child. If the parents are present, then there is an opportunity for parents and teachers to interact, discuss the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to help the child succeed. Because of strong support from early education advocates, Oklahoma has taken a leading position on early education issues in the U.S. Inspired by Oklahoma’s example, President Obama spoke about the strides made in early education in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. He advocated for universal preschool education so that every child has access to a good education, setting them on the path for success throughout life. In January 2013, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick developed a proposal that would guarantee universal access to education for students until the age of five. Here at the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, we will continue to work to improve early education in the state of Massachusetts, through advocacy in support of the Governor’s charge to improve early education in the state, as well as on our own initiatives to support the workforce and the children and families they interact with. In addition, we will push for passage of our proposed earned income tax credit for early educators in an effort to recognize the remarkable work that is done by early educators statewide.