Rich Girard and I both live in Ward 2 in Manchester and we are both running for seats on the school board; he for an at-large seat and me for the ward seat. So I was interested in reading Rich’s Open Letter to the “Don’t Wait. Educate” Co-Chairs regarding their request of candidates to sign a Statement of Purpose that supports high quality, early childhood education. I did sign the statement, a copy of which I am attaching to this response.
After reading Rich’s letter, I re-read the Statement of Purpose and the cover letter that accompanied it. I also went on the Internet to look for studies on the value of high quality, early childhood education. There is a plethora of information available that include studies from Rutgers and Vanderbilt universities. The general consensus is that high quality pre-school education can benefit all children and that the benefits are especially discernible in children from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The benefits include a greater dedication to education, better test scores, higher employment at better paying jobs and lower incidence of involvement with drugs and other criminal activity.
Why wouldn’t we want to give our children access to this resource as part of their public education?
With the increasing number of immigrant families in our community, this resource might help their children assimilate more rapidly. This would reduce the need for special services, such as English as a Second Language classes, which could put more teachers in classrooms without having to hire new personnel.
The Statement of Purpose seeks to supplement, not supplant, the parental role in providing early education to their children. It does not presume, as Rich suggests, that parents are unable or unwilling to prepare their children for school.
The Statement asks candidates to explore innovative public-private partnerships that will expand pre-school programs for all students. I believe this commitment could address Rich’s concern of stifling the growth of private pre-school programs.
The cover letter that accompanied the Statement of Purpose specifically states that the Don’t Wait to Educate initiative is not asking candidates to make a specific financial commitment to pre-school education. To me, that statement, together with the commitment requested in the Statement of Purpose meant that this group wanted to foster a discussion of and support for early childhood education. The members of this initiative are our constituents. We should welcome requests for the discussion of ideas that may lead to improvements in the education we offer our students.
I was happy to sign the Statement of Purpose and hand-deliver it the day after I received it. Unlike Rich, I did not find myself with more questions than answers. While the open letter is well written and expresses the candidate’s views, I found it to be an effort to use a constituent group’s request as a platform for a campaign speech, which obfuscated the issue of the value of pre-school education.
Very truly yours,
Sarah L. Browning
Sarah L. Browning is a candidate for school board in Ward 2 who attended Manchester public schools. She retired in 2013 from the New Hampshire Department of Education after 12 years as special assistant to the commissioner and administrator for policy and law, and serves as a trustee on the Making Community Connections Charter School as well as a commissioner on the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission.
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