Have you heard the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger?” Well, keep saying that over and over as you read ahead. In this piece, I’m just a messenger. No shooting of any kind, please.
The back story: Gov. Jay Nixon announced yet another blow to the already hurting Parents as Teachers program in Missouri. Nixon announced Thursday the program would lose an additional $4.9 million, resulting in a total loss of more than one fifth of the $30.9 it was supposed to receive this year. Parents as Teachers, for those of you who don’t know, serves the early childhood education sect, providing free screenings, in-home visits and educational play situations to promote early childhood development and school readiness. PAT reports it saves future dollars in taxes by educating new parents and focusing on the rich development necessary in the early years.
Supporters of Parents as Teachers are devastated. The cuts will mean more than 1,300 PAT educators may be out of a job, and it’s expected to just get worse. In reality, the program is looking to decrease by half, and we all know enough about money and education to anticipate what that means. The state’s plans are to focus the little remaining money on needier families and warn middle and upper income families to expect to have to pay for the program beyond the initial assessment visit.
The cuts to PAT are accompanied by deep cuts to education everywhere in the state. Busing, summer school, special services and many other programs are being affected. As the reality trickles down, teachers are beginning to slowly react. Mostly, we’re used to doing for ourselves. Personally I spend nearly a thousand dollars yearly to make up for the deficit in my classroom, and this is typical. Parents, too, are looking at the cuts with skepticism. They don’t want their kids sitting on the bus for longer periods of time because they cut half the bus lines, and they want to have summer school for their children.
It is with these, and other concerns in mind, that I’ve begun to hear some rumbling along the lines of this: The only people who really use Parents as Teachers are the ones who don’t need it anyway. So, cut the whole program and get that money back into the schools.
Remember, put your weapons down.
I’m just telling you what I’m hearing. I used PAT for my daughter, and know many families who also do. The visiting educator gave me objective insight on Liv that even as a teacher I was too close to see, like telling me I should probably transition her (at 4) off her sippy cup (but she’s so accident prone!). Parents as Teachers educators are another set of eyes and ears to aid families everywhere, not just families in poverty. Everyone has questions and concerns, right?
Some folks don’t feel that’s reason enough to pay a teacher’s salary. If the program was used primarily by people in poverty, then the original goal of the program to give those families a head start would be worth the funneling of school funds. Otherwise, they say, they’re happy to see it cut, and hope the program gets more.
I’m gonna to go hide now.
By Sharon Linde, Education Blogger for SmartParenting