The Fitchburg Pride
has a story in tomorrow's paper on the proposal to add a daily fee for attending preschool. It's ground that has been covered here, but Mayor Dan Mylott's input yesterday (after being asked about it by ace Pride reporter Karen Mann) is infurating, and probably insulting to a lot of people.
From the Pride:
“Preschool is not mandated by the state. It is a service the city tries to provide, but it costs money to put this service forward,” said Mylott.
He thinks $8 a day is an appropriate fee.
“What is being proposed is a small portion of the cost. It is not just a preschool, it is a day-care service as well,” said Mylott.
Where to start?
First, a disclaimer: I have a kid in the program. Part of the attraction of the program is that it's free. No doubt. However, there are a lot of other benefits: At top of the list is the fact that the teachers are certified education professionals, which isn't the case at all daycare/preschools. Abby's teacher, Katy Finn, is absolutely fantastic. Second, it's in a "real" school setting, in a big building with other grades, a cafeteria, a gym, which helps get her used to being in a school. Third, it's a SPED program, which helps subtly teach Abby that while kids are different, they're all the same (or some life lesson like that). All in all, it's been a great program for her.
The key to all this is the "day care" part. The morning session for 3-year-olds runs from 9 to 11:30. The afternoon for 4-year-olds is 12:30 to 3. I don't think many parents would consider 2.5 hours (less when you consider leaving after drop-off and coming back for pick-up) "day care." It's an out-of-touch statement that is insulting to parents, who break down mostly into two groups: Parents of SPED children who are looking to help their kids, and parents like us who want to get their kids in a good, safe, healthy preschool program. There might be a few who look at it as free babysitting for a couple of hours a day, but I think they're few and far between, and probably a little off the mark, considering the hassle of drop-off/pick-up and the short school day.
So, consider a whole group of parents ticked at the mayor for questioning the education hopes and goals for their children.
Now, the teachers.
They are "real" teachers. They are trained, certified, educators. They're teachers, just like everyone else in the school system. And in our experience, they're damn good. It belittles them to insinuate they're glorified babysitters. Considering the current union situation, you can only guess that this won't go over well.
Finally, and maybe more importantly, this shines a light on Mylott's overall ignorance of the education system in the city. When, in his mind, does "day care" end and school begins? Kindergarten? First grade? High school? College? Post-grad? He's right, the state doesn't mandate preschool, but it's encouraging school systems to add preschool programs. Fitchburg should be lauded for having a quality preschool program, the mayor shouldn't be dumping on it.
Remember, this is the mayor who sat quietly throughout last year's budget discussion, and then unilaterally whacked $1 million out of the school budget. At the same time, he lowered education funding from the city's budget by $100,000 last year before it was sniffed out and finally rectified somewhat. In short, you can question the guy's understanding of eduction at this point, and have a nice laundry list to back you up.
Adding a fee to preschool opens up a precedent for a slippery slope to adding fees for other basic education services, and that alone makes it a difficult proposition to endorse. As the education community begins to realize the importance of early education and encourages its growth, Mylott still doesn't understand what it's all about. As the guy who is the chair of the School Committee by being mayor, that's not particularly good news.
Labels: Mylott, Schools