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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Show-and-Tell on Preschool Proposals

June 12, 2005

Re "Scary Preschool Utopia," Opinion, June 5: Karin Klein did not do her homework. The Reiner initiative's "statewide preschool content standards" won't affect her kids. They're for children who currently have no choice but to attend a substandard preschool, if any. Universal preschool is about equal opportunity for quality education, a hard thing to come by in L.A.

Klein had choices for quality early childhood education, but many families do not. Preschools in the Pacific Palisades look a lot different from the preschools in East L.A.

Klein probably reads books about parenting and knew what to look for in a preschool. She probably was not working two jobs to pay the rent. Most important, she knew that preschool was an essential step in her children's preparation for kindergarten.

She's right that parent education and involvement are keys for school readiness, but first we need to provide the opportunity for quality early education to all families. That would be utopia.

Tami Harris

Early Childhood

Development Associates

Los Angeles

*

The subhead asks "just who is setting the agenda for what all 4-year-olds should learn?" Restated, the question is: What is appropriate education for 4-year-olds? Do we frame pre-K education in the yet-to-be-proven efficacy of K-12 national standards? Have we forgotten the federal Head Start answer to appropriate pre-K education? Could our state preschool model provide some answers?

The internationally recognized Reggio Emilia educators in Italy believe young children have a "thousand languages," which is to say that each young child has a uniquely individual way of learning. If this is true, Rob Reiner will be a Don Quixote fighting windmills in the misguided attempt to standardize education for 4-year-olds.

Dorothy Zitzmann

Prof. of Child Development

L.A. Community College

*

Decades of solid academic research from Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma and North Carolina have proved that children who attended high-quality, voluntary pre-K programs have stronger educational and social skills than those children without pre-K. The research also showed that children who participated in pre-K were less likely to need special education, drop out of school or need welfare.

In a state where 50% of students continue to read below even the basic level, Klein actually argues that California's young children should have less-qualified teachers than high school students. When parents choose a pre-K program, they should be confident that the teachers have the skills and education to help their youngster flourish. Pre-K is not a panacea. But what voluntary pre-K can do is give our kids a fighting chance to succeed.

Libby Doggett PhD

Executive Director

Pre-K Now

Washington

*

Klein is upset and bewildered that the proposed initiative to establish a universal preschool system in California would require bachelor's degrees and credentials for teachers. She also writes it would "require, insanely, that they be paid on par with high school

Ninety-nine percent of psychologists, child development specialists, etc., agree that a child's first five years are the most important for their emotional and educational development. Preschool teachers are not baby-sitters; they are helping or hindering children during the most crucial time in their lives.

For 10 years, I have taught at Cal State L.A., and many years ago I taught sixth-graders. My work as a sixth-grade teacher was 100 times more difficult, and the work and responsibility of preschool teachers is an additional 100 times more difficult and important. In a just and rational educational system, preschool teachers would be paid more than I am.

Joe Palacios

San Gabriel

*

The thought of any agenda or standardization for preschool makes me cringe with fear. If parents want their child to learn the alphabet by age 4, they can find that type of preschool. For us, the last thing we wanted for our son's first year of school was a regimented program. Our son will learn his ABCs when he is ready, not when some out-of-touch official thinks he should. For now, he will play and discover and be a child. Finding a way for parents to afford preschool is a noble deed, but forcing all preschools to be the same would be a terrible mistake.

Molly Thomas

Thousand Oaks

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