Preschool a staple; why all the dessert?
Preschool is a bit like gardening. It’s best to amend soil early and often, as even the best of seeds won’t grow in sand.
A group of preschool educators and promoters in Leelanau County believe they are one nutrient — a steady flow of public funding — away from growing the best children possible through a stepped up and professionally staffed network of pre-kindergarten options.
The group, Leelanau Early Child Development Commission (LECDC), only recently gained non-profit status. Among its members are two county commissioners, one of whom heads the group. That’s David Marshall of Glen Arbor.
In an attempt to secure financing to fund a tuitionbased program available to every family in the county with a young child, LECDC got a little ahead of itself in asking the County Board to place a millage request on the Nov. 6 ballot. A review of the request by a law firm representing commissioners found that such an education property tax could not be levied by Leelanau County. The proper venue would be local school districts — you’ve probably heard that some of them are already struggling for cash and prevented by the state Constitution from asking for more — or perhaps the Traverse Bay Intermediate School district, which would regionalize the issue.
We had written in a news story last week that LECDC was affiliated with the Leelanau Childrens’ Center, which may have left the impression that other groups were not involved. Actually, many other organizations are working with LECDC, including local school districts and even a couple small, preschool providers. Many people are in favor of this concept.
That’s because after recovering from sticker shock, it’s difficult to argue with the concept LECDC brings to the table. Early childhood education advocates say that young children growing up under proper guidance are more successful and less likely to be a burden to society. The old “eduction is cheaper than incarceration” argument has real numbers behind it.
Ah, about that pricetag. The group was planning to seek a new one-half mill property tax, which along with other sources would provide grants of up to $9,000 per student to educate our youngest of residents. To be blunt, taxpayers won’t pay that much. They may not agree to pay anything, as we’d venture to guess most residents of Leelanau County were raised by their mothers with help from an occasional babysitter in the form of grandma or a neighbor kid.
While times have changed, the thought that parents should act like and find time to be parents has not completely faded from society.
We were surprised that LECDC was not prepared to explain the nuts and bolts of its bold concept, including systems of accountability to the County Board. An explanation of how the group would avoid problems entrenched in public schools also would have helped.
Despite being rebuked in its first attempt, we do not expect LECDC to go away. It’s now a non-profit organization, which will open up the possibility of receiving grants and donations to at least partially fund its goals. Offering fully-funded preschool for families needing it remains a laudable goal.
In fact, if we could pick and choose among government’s indulgences, we’d be inclined to include preschool as a staple — after getting rid of the dessert tray.