Friday, January 15, 2010


(See post, above, for the link to the study)

Nebraska's finances are in such dire straits, it's a no-brainer that we should immediately cancel our Head Start funding across the state. It's a boondoggle!

We should switch to the early childhood ed curricula and methods that have been proven to result in strong literacy and numeracy for all kids on down the road, but especially at-risk, low-income kids who are now being ill-served by Head Start. Those are phonics-based and play-based curricula and methods -- better, cheaper and more fun all the way around.

If our tax dollars aren't REALLY giving low-income kids a "head start" on doing well in school, why in the Sam Hill do we keep funding it?

I contend that lousy pre-K and early-primary curriculum and instruction in the Omaha Public Schools is WHY they have one of the nation's widest racial achievement gaps, and WHY the graduation rate is so low among low-income and minority kids.

The kids and their parents can tell right off the bat that their futures don't matter as much to OPS as those of the rich, white kids, and so they disengage.


If we used pre-K and early-primary methods for our state's low-income itty bitties that really could bring them up to par academically with their more-advantaged classmates, how much happier would we feel about the outcomes of our hard-earned tax dollars, vs. throwing them down a rathole with Head Start programs?

How much better would it be for Nebraska's economic development prospects to get rid of that atrocious race-based academic achievement gap?

And most of all, how many tens of millions of dollars in remediation and at-risk services would we save, now and in the years to come, if we could drastically reduce the number of kids who ARE at-risk because of lousy reading preparation and instruction?

The juicy stuff starts on p. iv of this report, indicating clearly that any benefit young children might get from attendance in the Head Start program washes out almost immediately.

It's just another red flag showing why it is long past time to force the Omaha Public Schools, which runs Head Start in the state's largest city, to drop Head Start immediately or "show cause" why they shouldn't.

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Omaha Public Schools and others have been in hot pursuit of closing the learning gap for at least twenty years. Magnets, academies,spending, at OPS, $11,000a year per pupil in operating costs alone, Head Start, hundreds of education specialists at OPS headquarters have resulted in Nebraska, mainly due to OPS, sinking to near the bottom of the nation in the racial learning gap, and faring very poorly in the Hispanic learning gap also! Good God, what a black eye for Nebraska!

Isn't it about time we tried something different? How about vouchers for low-income families to use at any accredited pre-school? How about a REAL charter school law? What about tuition tax credits? Tax credits for donations to scholarship funds for low income families? How about vouchers for kids attending schools that have clearly failed?
A "60% rule", meaning 60% of educational funds must be spent at the local school level, not in overhead.Radical as it may sound, maybe parents should decide which school is best for their kids. A free market in education would kill off lousy schools and richly reward the ones that actually educate kids.

We have the world's greatest retail stores, marvelous, but consistently fail to make progress in government education, and often slip backward, as OPS has done. The difference is that the retail industry is subject to the discipline of the marketplace, and government schools, despite "open" enrollment and magnets for some, are not.
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