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School Board Funds Early Childhood Education

Despite state cuts, Channahon District 17 agrees preschool for at-risk kids is too important.

The Channahon School District 17 unanimously voted to fund an a program for at-risk preschoolers Monday even if they do not receive a renewed state grant.

The funding comes despite a Republican-sponsored effort to cut $17 million from early childhood programs. These cuts, if passed, are likely to affect a grant the district has typically received. Supt. Karine Evans read a quote she said was from Rep. Tom Cross wherein he expressed regret about the cuts.

"Most of our discussion [about this] is based on the fiscal disorder in Springfield," said Mike Schroeder, director of finance and transportation.

The district's program that is affected is Little Learners. Already 40 children, ages 3 to 4 are enrolled. The district had earmarked $100,000 in the budget for the anticipated program costs. Half has already been paid and the board approved paying the remaining $50,000. This would include a full-time teacher and a full-time teacher's aide. 

"I think that this is definitely, definitely a worth while program," Evans said. "I believe in the program, it is the way to go."

Early childhood programs are targeted to preschoolers who meet the criteria for being at risk. Criteria is a weighted scale, including developmental delays, social issues and economic variables, according to Kim Wilson, an early childhood teacher who addressed the board.

Studies, including one done by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, show that preschool programs are an ounce of prevention. In addition to helping the individual students, they save the state billions of dollars, according to the report.

Without these programs, Illinois can expect to pay more in juvenile corrections, welfare, unrealized income tax, losses accrued by crime victims, alcohol and drug abuse programs and decreased productivity of employed parents, the report showed. 

"The ongoing cost burden of not investing in school readiness for all disadvantaged children is an estimated $155 million a year," according to the Wilder Foundation report's summary.

The district turned in a application for the grant about eight weeks ago. The last they heard, there has been no movement by the state in awarding the grants, Evans said.

This year is the first time in her experience that all the program's slots have been filled in both the morning and the afternoon classes this early in the summer, Evans said. In the event that other students may qualify for the program, the district would start a waiting list. 

Shannon June 29, 2011 at 12:56 PM
I'm glad that Channahon School stepped up and funded this program. It is a huge benefit for the children enrolled. I hope that Minooka School District will make the same decision. They normally don't announce anything until the week before school starts, if they find out that they have funding. It would be nice for the parents that have children enrolled to know something sooner. And it would be nice for the teachers that are waiting to hear if they are returning or not to know sooner than the middle of August.
Christine June 29, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Preschool and kindergarten attendance are not legally required in IL. I'd like to know where the money funding this cut program is coming from.
Jennifer June 29, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Do you have a preschool or kindergarten aged child, Christine? I do, although my child is attending regular preschool and I don't even live in Channahon, but my cousin's children have attended Minooka's version of the same program and it has made a HUGE difference for them. I shudder to think where they would be if they had not been able to attend a specialized pre-school program, if they had just been thrust into first grade without any kind of intervention. Some children need this kind of program and just because it's not required doesn't mean that it's not worthwhile.
Shannon June 29, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Christine, I understand that it's not legally required in Illinois. However, these programs are for children that are in need of additional services. 2 of my daughters were in the early intervention program. My now 5 yr old needed only speech services, which she received and is not thriving. She was very difficult to understand, even for me. Now, she can speak clearly enough for everyone to understand her. My youngest daughter had several specialists and special services. Without the help of the therapists in the Early Intervention program and the At Risk Preschool program, I don't know where we would be with her. She has gained so much confidence and can be around other people without always melting down. She can speak clearly enough for most people to understand her. So these programs are a HUGE help for the parents and children that need them. I would hate to see them eliminated. They need to stop cutting funding and programs for those that truly need them. I realize that things need to be cut. But, they should start cutting at the top not the bottom.
Travis Michael June 30, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Helping children with developmental delays is crucial to their future. This is an amazing program that needs to be funded. Regards, TM http://birthinjuryattorneyohio.com/
Christine July 01, 2011 at 02:18 AM
Actually, I have elementary school children. And, I never said the program isn't worthwhile. Parents should continue to pay for it, not taxpayers. We're in a serious financial situation here, folks. Every says, "CUT! Just not MY programs!" That cannot go on.
Monique Phillips July 02, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Hi Christine and other commentors. I completely understand both sides. However, what if the parents cannot afford it? I'd rather my taxes pay for prevention and positivity(education) than reaction and negativity (prisons).
Christine July 02, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Benefits of Preschool Don't Last http://www.cato.org/research/education/articles/prebenefits.html And as to the cost? Well, in my house, if we can't afford something, we don't buy it. The country needs to be run the same way.
Monique Phillips July 02, 2011 at 05:17 AM
I understand. But if I used the same reasoning (I dont buy it if I cannot afford it) for attending college how many people would have degrees? It really boils down to what folks are willing to invest in. I respect what you are saying, and I believe it applies to other situations however, I guess you can say I am a bit biased when it comes to education especially for children who need it and their parent(s) (if they have the privilege of having parents, have to keep this in mind) who really are deciding between work, food for their family and a quality education. Do you think there could be a happy medium or any other suggestions for improvements? Keep in mind that not everyone has the same social/class standing and while I do not advocate for dependency everyone needs assistance every now and then. I look forward to hearing your thoughts...
Shannon July 02, 2011 at 12:22 PM
The benefits of preschool do last when it's a preschool like this. They are working with children with special needs. My daughter was completely unintelligible when she started the program. She has severe speech delays. She had a speech therapist that came to the house. And that was great, but it was only for 45 minutes once or twice a week. With the preschool program she was surrounded by other children that had similar issues. They worked on speech with her the entire time she was at school. She also had speech therapy while in school. So the benefits of this preschool program, and others like it do last. These programs aren't for all children. They are for a select group of children that would be too far behind when entering Kindergarten or 1st grade. It's not just playing for 3 hours.
Christine July 02, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Kids leaving college with large amounts of debt (school loans as well as credit card debt) is a huge problem. Kids are finding out that a college degree does not automatically secure you a job, as it did in years past. So, the trend of going into debt to pay for an expensive college degree is declining. Kids and parents are finding creative ways to avoid the debt (community college for a few years, then a four-year school, working through college, taking a gap year to work, earning scholarships, etc.) The improvements I suggest are simple: cut the overhead in education. We build extravagent buildings, replace items that are not used up or worn out, and generally spend money just to spend it here in Illinois. Will County spends around $3,500 per pupil in elementary school, which is in the lowest 25% of the state. We actually get a lot for the money. BUT, the real cost of educating a child is MUCH lower. How do I know? I homeschool two children for less than $1,000 per year (combined). We use the latest and greatest curriculum, have activities up the ying-yang, and generally cut out the wastefull middleman. I reiterate we cannot continue to spend money we don't have. Why can't the parents work with their kids at home? It's actually very easy, convenient and cost-effective. Parents are a child's first and best teacher.
Monique Phillips July 02, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Part 1 Like I've said before, the issue of education is not as simple as we would want it to be. I will also continue to admit my biased toward promoting education for all especially early childhood education programs. You are right, there exists horrible beaurocratic systems that abuse power and funds. But to address your example, I think it is absolutely wonderful that you have the privilege and ability to home school your children. However, I encourage you to keep in mind the following before you completely rule out the early childhood program.
Monique Phillips July 02, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Part 2 1- All children do not have parents or guardians. They are wards of the state or homeless. Can they be "home schooled" without a home? 2- All children do not come from a 2 parent household. Increasingly children are being raised in a 1 parent household and due to economic downturn, for some even before the economy was bust, their parent had to work and couldn't necesarily afford to pay $1000.00/ 2 children for home schooled education even if they sacrificed everything they had. Which most try to do. 3- Even if a child has the option to be home schooled, the parent may not have the proper tools to administer education due to their inebility of understanding english, math, science, comprehension, etc.
Monique Phillips July 02, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Part 3 4- For some children "home" isn't the safest place. The home is not a stable place that promotes learning and developmental growth. 5- Other than the situations I've outlined there are many more reasons why early childhood education should not be completely ruled out. There are hundreds of thousands of children out here who fit into the categories I've outlined. Now, are all programs quality of course not and those should be revamped. I get this. But there are many that work, we need those. Parents who may not have your privileges need those. As someone who has worked with one of the largest school districts in the nation, I have seen all ends of the spectrum. But, at the end of the day, even if these programs aren't 100% successful (keep in mind home school isn't either) there are parents/ guardians/ social workers/ teachers out there who take into consideration all and even more that I've outlined here and still feel that the program itself should NOT be rid of. Improved, yes, but not cut. I think our focus should be on improvement of approach not elimination of a necessity. Let me know your thoughts.
Christine July 03, 2011 at 02:46 AM
I agree with many of your points. I never said the program should be eliminated. I said parents should pay for it. If we had a surplus of cash floating around the state, we would have plenty of money to pay for all the extras people want. But we don't. And, if programs for children who are at-risk are deemed necessary, what about the children who are gifted? Children at all levels of ability deserve to be challenged. Public school in its current form is not able to sucessfully educate all students. Homeschooling is not for everyone. It does take one parent to be the bread winner and another to stay home and teach. While I feel very lucky to be able to stay home with my kids, it's a sacrifice. I understand not everyone is able to do it. But, you're going down a dangerous road when you substitute any entity for parents, no matter the reason.

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