Because I'm the Mom: It's time to get serious about education

By Heather Condley Rainone | Managing editor Published:

Ed FitzGerald, Democratic candidate for Ohio governor, said Wednesday that if he's elected he'll work to guarantee that all 4-year-olds in Ohio have access to public preschool by 2018.

I think this is a wonderful idea. Of course, as state Republicans have pointed out, FitzGerald hasn't talked yet about specifics or how he would fund the plan, but I think the benefit to our state far outweighs the cost. In fact, I think we should make preschool guaranteed for 3-year-olds as well. Education is so important and, despite what some people say and think, we spend such a relatively small amount of money on it. And, frankly, it's not just an issue of money. Commitment is just as important.

As any kindergarten teacher will tell you, there is a huge gap in what children know when they start school. There are some children who can read while others don't even know the alphabet. This gap hurts everyone in the class. The students who may be among the most advanced in the class can't learn at their level and the children at the bottom of the curve are at risk of being left behind.

When I was in half-day kindergarten in the 1970s I remember spending a lot of time learning the alphabet. My youngest son will start full-day kindergarten in the fall and when I registered him for school this spring we got a packet of what he should know on Day One. This includes the alphabet, numbers at least to 10, letter sounds, colors, shapes, etc. Of course, in this day of technology and educational television many kids know these things already. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of children whose parents don't know how to, or frankly even care to, give their children a leg up. Heck, not even a leg up, an even start. Or parents who work multiple jobs and spend much of their time worrying about how to feed and clothe their kids, let alone teaching them to read.

Here's why we should care about the education of all children, not just our own. At-risk children who don't receive a high-quality early childhood education are:

• 20% more likely to drop out of school

• 40% more likely to become a teen parent

• 50% more likely to be placed in special education

• 60% more likely to never attend college

• 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime

These specific statistics are from the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a public-private partnership that focuses on children, but similar statistics are available on government and education foundation websites.

I think most people can agree that it is ideal to have productive members of society, people who support themselves, hold down jobs and contribute in positive ways to their communities. High-quality education makes this possible, so why isn't it a priority?

I consider myself very lucky that my husband and I have the means and know-how to make sure our children receive quality education, both at home and at school. But that doesn't mean I'm not directly affected by the education other children in my community, state and country receive.

We can start by supporting our local schools by volunteering, by supporting school levies and by supporting teachers and children. We can also put pressure on our school boards, state houses and Congress to make all education a priority.

If you have any parenting topics you'd like me to touch on feel free to comment on this post or email me at hrainone@recordpub.com. You can also follow me on twitter at @heatherrainone or follow my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HeatherCondleyRainoneRecordCourierManagingEditor

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