Op-Ed: Preschool should remain out of public hands

I am compelled to get the word out regarding a Senate bill that could adversely affect private preschools in California. The bill is labeled SB 837 or Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014. This bill is written with good intentions, but the implementation is a problem. The bill written by state Sen. Darrell Steinberg is asking for approval to provide free preschool to all 4-year-olds — a noble idea. Because of how the author and co-authors have chosen to fund the bill, it places these 4-year-olds in our public school system. I would imagine any person in the field of early childhood development; teacher, psychologist and doctor would oppose this bill.

The bill states that through longitudinal studies it has been found that those children who attended quality preschool programs had higher graduation rates, college enrollment rates and earning rates. This is what preschool educators have provided for years. Four-year-olds still need help developing social skills and gaining confidence. They need space inside and out allowing them to explore their environment. This will not happen at an elementary school. Elementary schools predominantly have blacktop as the surface outside. Inside the classroom, the environment will not be warm and inviting as in a quality preschool and won’t have the supplies needed to create and invent.

What about working parents that need an after-school program? After a certain time of day, the young children will more than likely be mixed in with the older children (as it is now). Again, not appropriate. The funding cannot be used to upgrade facilities for 4-year-olds; meaning they will make do with what they have in place, which is suited for 5 years and up. Let’s also talk about whether or not your local school has space to house a whole new age of children. Will class sizes grow in the other grades to make space for the younger children?

If this bill passes how it is written, with parents unable to access the funding and choose a quality preschool, we feel that a great number of private preschools will have to shut their doors. Most preschools have 50% of children age 4, which also helps the schools differ the costs of the younger children who require smaller class sizes. As we have seen through the already implemented TK classes in the public schools, parents will leave a preschool they have to pay for, if another one is free. If we can’t keep our doors open because of losing half our clientele then who will service the families with younger children? This bill could impact preschools, teachers, vendors and families.

Let’s put aside all the financial ramifications. My passion is and has been helping shape the minds and spirits of young children. I have been in the field for 23 years, first as a teacher and now as a director of Parents and Children’s Nursery School in La Cañada. None of us in our field do our jobs for the paycheck, because there isn’t much of one. We do it because we are passionate about helping young children understand who they are and how far they can go.

We need to keep enriching our children with experiences, music, art and expression. A quality program embraces the whole child. Children leave us with the love of school and the curiosity needed to learn. We need our artists, musicians, scientists and writers as well as our leaders in business. Our public school system has already taken away so much from our children. Do we want them to take it away even sooner?


MARJI GOLDEN is a resident of Glendale. She can be reached at ParentsandChildren@sbcglobal.net.

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