Letters to the Editor for April 16
State could improve its infrastructure best by aiding early child care
Re April 4 article, “Area to get $250 million for road, bridge work”: While the governor builds bridges, roads and parks, the child care infrastructure is ignored.
Congratulations, Gov. Cuomo, you did it again. An on-time budget is certainly something to be proud of. We know it takes a lot of calculating to do what’s best for the people of New York with the resources you have. We did a little calculating of our own on behalf of the people who are sometimes forgotten — the 1.2 million children under 5 years old.
It’s true that New York didn’t cut child- care subsidies for low-income children. In fact, Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature ensured that 19,000 children would not fall off a cliff and lose their child care. They even added about 409 children statewide (about eight children per county). Increasing access was important to keep people working and paying taxes. But it won’t have the desired impact unless this access is to quality early education.
Scientists tell us that 85 percent of a person’s brain connections are hard-wired before they start school. Therefore, the period of time between birth and kindergarten is the most pivotal period of time in a person’s life for creating the framework for a physically and emotionally healthy individual with the maximum capacity to thrive, learn, and contribute to society. It’s where the “achievement gap” can be most effectively eliminated.
Research also shows that low-quality early care and education programs are detrimental. So it’s not enough to provide subsidies and increase access if we don’t also strengthen the quality of the care and education New York children receive.
We must also build on New York’s spending on public education by ensuring that children are ready for school before they ever set foot in the door. School readiness will boost third grade reading levels, decrease the need for special education and remediation, and increase high school graduation rates. We know all this! Yet New York not only recently lost out on the opportunity for federal funding through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant — we came in 23rd out of 37! The winners of the federal grant were states that had invested in their young children and currently have a quality rating and improvement system, such as New York state’s QUALITYstarsNY, in place. QUALITYstarsNY has been field tested and parents and early education programs are ready to embrace it.
The state Department of Education recognizes the key role that early care and education play in long-term school success. They are using QUALITYstarsNY to reach 300 programs in persistently low achieving school districts. While this is wonderful, at this rate it will take until the end of the century to reach every child. QUALITYstarsNY needs serious state funding for statewide implementation.
Focusing on the foundation will help us ensure real and lasting improvements. We urge the same approach for early learning.
Focusing on the foundation is even more important with children. By providing quality early learning and development now, we are ensuring the long-term success of our economy. Just as roads and bridges need solid bearings, so do our young children. While those 115 bridges and 2,000 miles of roads need attention, so do the 250,000 babies born last year and the year before and the year before.
We call on Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature to make 2013 the year for young children and quality early learning.
The writers are, respectively, executive director of the Early Care & Learning Council and executive director of the Child Care Council of Westchester.
Thanks for focusing attention on Mideast
Thomas L. Friedman, in a syndicated column published April 11, quotes a report recently carried by the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.
According to it, Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, in prison serving five life sentences for his involvement in the killing of Israelis, “released an unusual statement from his cell. He called on his people to start a popular uprising against Israel, to stop negotiations and security coordination and to boycott [Israel]. Barghouti recommended that his people choose nonviolent opposition.” Friedman’s column discussed positive possibilities such a development might produce.
Coincidentally, thanks to Carl Strock’s reports and commentary on his recent time in Israel, our attention to that part of the world has been heightened. The Gazette has also published reactions and rejoinders suggesting, among other things, how unpalatable Strock’s writings are. I have no wish to enter into this exchange or to characterize either Strock’s writings or those who [are] responding to him.
I do wonder, is this a good time and is there a way we could refocus the energy expended in these local exchanges into something that might support the development of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and their neighboring countries?