Democrats Early Childhood Education Poverty

Susan Ochshorn: Some Thoughts for the Democratic Platform

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Susan Ochshorn of ECE Policy Works offers these thoughts for the Democratic platform:

1) Children are rarely mentioned in this document. They are our precious “human capital,” the future of our nation and a robust democracy. I find their absence disturbing overall, but especially so in the section, “Poverty/Communities Left Behind.”

America’s child poverty rate puts us second only to Romania among advanced economies. The poverty rate for children under age 6 hovers around 22 percent. There are also whole communities of children across the nation living in communities of concentrated poverty, where more than 40 percent of families live below the line. All of this, in the richest nation in the world. [Diane’s note: Romania is not an ‘advanced nation,’ even though Susan correctly notes that some UN organizations created a list in which we ranked behind Romania in child poverty.]

2) Socioeconomic status has been shown to be a key factor in children’s academic success. Children living in poverty are more likely to be exposed to adverse childhood experiences–maternal depression, domestic and community violence, substance abuse, etc.–and suffer from toxic stress, which affects their ability to thrive in school.

3) Given all of the above, we need a much more comprehensive, holistic approach to early care and education. Universal preschool is essential, but families need support from the prenatal period, after birth, with paid parental leave and high-quality infant/toddler care. We must look to effective models of education that attend to the whole child, including community schools, which bring together social and mental health services and supports for parents.

4) We need to re-imagine education for all of our students, but especially for our youngest children, whose natural zest for learning we are squashing under the demands of standards-based accountability and the narrowed curriculum of the Common Core. The Finns, whose educational outcomes are stellar, see schools as laboratories for democracy–places of joy, exploration, and inquiry. They respect the unique developmental path of each child. Their children are not pushed into academic work and high-stakes testing at an early age.

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