Parents sending their three- and four-year olds to preschool are facing increasing pressure to use government schools, as secular, elitist educators use government funding as a back door to remove parental choice from pre-school options.
Alabama’s First Class program is growing quickly, using federal funds from the popular Head Start program to extend restrictive government regulations to preschools who agree to accept public money. Hiding under the blanket of “ensuring quality”, these regulations cover every aspect of pre-school education.
First Class funding casts a net over preschool programs, supporting those that agree to restrictive government regulations. An extensive list of programs and classroom regulations dictate everything from the length of the school day (6.5 hours) to the number of students per classroom (16, with mid-year growth to 18 allowed). Even the physical environment of state-funded preschools— displays, furniture, materials—must meet specific requirements, and the daily classroom schedule must be approved by the Alabama Office of School Readiness.
Every year, educators make progress in getting legislators to increase funding, frequently using lottery money, and target those funds away from religious organizations. In Alabama, the buckle of the Bible belt:
Approximately 300 preschools are enlisted in the program; only approximately seven of those are faith-based, said J. Robin Mears, executive director of Alabama Christian Education Association. Basically, religious preschools must give up their basic mission to comply with state regulations, he said.
We live in Georgia, and have three- and four-year old boys, whom we send to a church-based pre-school, and we pay tuition for that, $228 per month for both kids, plus incidentals and supplies. Many parents can’t afford that, and opt for Georgia’s Bright Start program, offered by the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL).
Georgia’s Pre-K Program is a voluntary, universal program established in 1993 to provide the state’s four-year-old children with high quality preschool experiences. Currently, nearly 58% of Georgia’s four year olds are served in this nationally recognized program. During the 2012-2013 school year, approximately 84,000 children will be served in every county in the state.
I searched the Bright Start provider list for my zip code, and not one faith-based pre-school is on the list. A parent’s choice is pay up, or submit your kids to the government’s rules, taught by the same teachers and staff as at public schools. The same public schools where a child is told not to pray over her lunch. That school is in Oviedo, Florida, a small town about an hour west of Cocoa Beach. I’ve been to Oviedo, and it’s not a bastion of atheist activism.
I don’t oppose using lottery money to fund public pre-school and other programs for kids. That’s a worthy cause, it helps avoid problems like working mothers arrested for leaving her child to play at a play at a park while she worked at McDonalds. When that state money is funneled by elite educators only to schools of which they approve, it limits parental choice.
Parental choice is the cornerstone of American education. American children belong to their parents, not to the government. Programs that limit choice lead to censorship and erosion of First Amendment rights, and this is especially true of pre-school programs, where small children’s minds are open to indoctrination.
It’s a fine line that separates parents passing on their values and beliefs to their young children and government indoctrination. Liberal elites see no difference—they feel that they have the right to pass on their beliefs to our children. As a parent, this is intolerable. State legislatures need to provide equal access to all pre-schools with public funds, and not allow liberal elites in the educational system to push faith-based pre-schools out of the market.