Wednesday, January 26, 2005


The sponsors of Legislative Bills 350 and 577 should have their milk and cookies taken away. Gently, but firmly, they should be led to sit in the corner and think about what these bills would do to young children in Nebraska. Once they finish their timeout, they can re-join the Legislature with plenty of time left to withdraw these dumb and dangerous bills before the bell rings to close this session.

These bills would use state tax dollars to pay for in-school day-care programs, incorporating pre-k into the state aid formula, so that all of us would be subsidizing this disastrous programming.

Young children need to spend their preschool years in their own homes, at Granny’s, at the neighbor’s, at the church preschool, or if they must go to structured day care, it should be privately run with their parents firmly in charge.

Studies show institutional, group day-care such as is conducted in public schools turns out K-12 kids who are less able to learn, more angry and poorly behaved, and suffering from more health problems.

That’s what we would be paying for, with these bills. WAH! And not only that, “free” or “reduced” in-school day care would be indoctrinating parents at an earlier and earlier age to “buy in” to the public-school system. They wouldn’t have a chance to see that there are better ways of educating children. Maybe that’s part of the plan here.

The arguments against it are strong: the public schools are putting too much on their plates again with this move, diluting their ability to perform their basic mission for the K-12 students . . . kids who “start school” as infants will be ultra-sick of it by late grade school . . . teachers trained in K-12 methods aren’t right for early-childhood settings . . . early-childhood philosophies and methods are creeping up into first and second grade because of the mix of staff, which dumbs down grade school . . . and, most of all, this move is predatory on the family’s right to rear children the way they wish, not to mention predatory on private-sector day-care and preschool businesses.

But what really makes me grab my security blanket is that research clearly shows that full-time, school-based day care is actually bad for children later on, and ominous for future discipline problems – disobedience, destruction of property and fighting – in public schools. Misbehavior that’s kind of cute in a 3- or 4-year-old is ugly indeed 10 years later.

The number of hours children spend in day care is linked to the level of behavior problems they have later in life, according to a federal study published in the scientific journal, Child Development. The researchers found that, as the hours of day care increased, the reports of problem behavior generally increased right along with them. Researcher Sarah Friedman said the findings held true for all income groups of children in all out-of-home structured settings.

Another study, from the University of Minnesota, showed a significant increase in hormonal measurements of stress among preschoolers in day care. Note that those measurements fell for those same children on days they spent at home.

A third, by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) -- the most comprehensive ever conducted -- found that the more time children spent in non-parental day care arrangements, the more likely they were to display aggression, disobedience, and conflict with adults.

Of course, the reason public schools are getting in to early childhood education is that it brings in revenue. But with increasing evidence that full-time, out-of-home day care is bad for children and hampers learning later on, public policymakers may want to reconsider the billions of federal dollars going to subsidized day care, including in schools.

A better idea is to cut government spending to lessen the tax burden so more parents can stay home for more of those crucial early years.

One thing Nebraskans can do to fight these bills: Send your state senator the books, Miseducation by David Elkind, Day Care Deception by Brian Robertson or Better Late Than Early by Raymond Moore. Better include a binky, too, and tell ‘em : this idea SUCKS.

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