I truly don’t know what our legislators are thinking with the preschool bill, HB 1004, that so conveniently sneaks in voucher expansion.
Since kindergarten is not yet completely funded by our state, I am completely for fully funding all-day kindergarten and preschool, and I am also completely for giving this early childhood education initiative to our already capable public schools.
If you have ever visited Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center, a public Montessori preschool that is part of Fort Wayne Community Schools, you will see it is truly one of Fort Wayne’s gems. This is a preschool where children are fully engaged in learning, doing “works” of their choice, investigating, creating and developing practical life skills. You will see children as young as 4 reading and doing math. You will see young children fall in love with learning. This is an education center with a waiting list as large as the number of children currently in attendance. And, as I mentioned earlier, this is a public school, the first public Montessori school in the nation to be accredited by the American Montessori Society.
Because I have seen the great success in our public schools with outstanding preschools, I fully support children beginning school at an early age. My children are fortunate enough to reap the benefits from starting school at age 3. They are ahead of most children their age; they are above grade level in reading and math; they are independent, self-confident learners, and they know how to plan, organize and direct their own learning.
I credit these fine attributes to their preschool education at Bunche. Preschool gives children the opportunities and benefits that last a lifetime, and it makes them productive citizens who make positive contributions to our society.
However, I am strongly opposed to Section 10 of HB 1004 that expands the voucher program. I am also opposed to giving the responsibility of preschool to private institutions. I am opposed to private preschools receiving public tax dollars as well as private schools hurriedly expanding their programs to offer preschool so that they can receive our tax dollars. In fact, I believe our public schools are more than capable of handling this preschool initiative. They already have the knowledge and experience. Why do our legislators think they are not capable?
I hope there is an amendment to HB 1004. I believe the state’s preschool proposal is important enough to stand on its own, without section 10 of HB 1004, which ties the preschool program to the current voucher program. Section 10 should be removed. I wish our legislators would allow our public schools to do what they do best – teach all children equally; accept all children fairly; provide for our children what our democracy has promised them – an equal opportunity for education.