MSCCA is very active on many levels and with multiple partners to bring this important topic to the forefront in our community. We will bring awareness to and advocate for our members across the state on this critical issue which will have a direct impact on our children, families and businesses. We have taken strong, new lobbying steps to increase our voices and will need our child care community to join MSCCA as we work to impact and educate decision makers in Maryland. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our new advocacy email at email@example.com to share your voice with us and join MSCCA and or the MSCCA Montgomery County Chapter.
Thank you to Shaun Rose (MSCCA 1st VP and Member of our MSCCA Montgomery County Chapter) for the following excellent synopsis from the town hall event on Universal Pre K held in Montgomery County with MC officials both in government and school superintendent.
Report from tonight’s UPK meeting in MoCo:
Councilmember Craig Rice and Superintendent Jack Smith hosted a robust and open community discussion tonight to hear from the members of the community about what their expectations were for a system of Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) in our County. Councilmember Rice and Superintendent Smith purposely did much more listening than talking, saying that they did not have a specific plan they were pushing. They mentioned that, at the State level, there is both a Universal Pre-K WorkGroup and the Kirwan Commission who are looking into possible structures and funding possibilities for a statewide system of UPK. However, they were hopeful we would have the flexibility to implement a system that would work best for the diverse residents of our County. Councilmember Rice and Superintendent Smith gave everyone in the crowd who wanted to make comments or ask a question the opportunity to do so and the event lasted for over two hours.
While the forum allowed us to hear from parents, providers, & other community members as well as representatives of the State, County and MCPS, there are reasons for concern. Superintendent Smith acknowledged that while he had heard feedback that they need to consider our entire system of birth to 5 child care and preschool in developing a plan, ‘we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good’ and that we should be content to take it one step at time. It is understandable that from the public schools’ perspective, we can try to expand opportunities a little at a time from year to year. However, private programs are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in enrollment and can no longer serve families if they do not meet their economic goals and go out of business. If we tinker with parts of the child care system at one end, we can easily find, as they have in other jurisdictions, that we lose programs for infants, toddlers, twos and threes. This does not help our families, our workforce, or our children. We need to get MCPS and the County to develop a more comprehensive plan. (For example, the State and County could increase funding for our existing child care subsidy programs and so that families can better afford pre-k. Such an approach would support our current system rather than destabilize it.)
Perhaps the biggest groans of the night from the crowd came when Councilmember Rice and Superintendent Smith argued that there is a distinction between early childhood education and child care, stating that early childhood education has “structured content and benchmarks” along with “requirements on the educators,” while child care “doesn’t include education.” These comments struck right at the heart of the child care provider community and demonstrated little understanding and respect for the work and successes child care providers have had with our children. State licensing regulations require initial training and continued professional development for all teachers in child care programs. Children who attend child care centers have significantly better results on the State’s own benchmark, the “Kindergarten Readiness Assessment,” than children who attend the “early education” public pre-k programs and other programs that have the requirements Councilmember Rice and Superintendent Smith argued makes them distinct from child care programs. If this is the mistaken belief that our County and School System have about child care, how can they expect child care providers to want to partner with them in this effort?
While we need to do much more work in educating our leaders about our current system of child care and preschool, there is room for hope. Councilmember Rice and Superintendent Smith showed that they continue to be willing to listen and they received much feedback from tonight’s forum for them to ponder. They have both demonstrated excellent leadership on so many issues for our County and care a great deal about the success of our community. It is important that child care providers and families do all they can to continue to engage and educate our leaders on these issues and help ensure we take a productive path forward.
Shaun M. Rose
President, Rock Spring Children’s Center