Education Reform Head Start

I’m sorry. I just have to vent here for a moment. I was driving home this afternoon and saw a huge billboard that read “Hoosier Uplands: You are not alone.” It was a picture of a group of children and some workers. Obviously, I thought this must be referring to the Head Start Program. At first, I thought “well, at least it is helping kids.” After all, who can be mad if money is going to children? I have two boys and either one or two more kids on the way. Sure they deserve the best. Well, then I started to look into some things.

The first thing I did was remember that I have to pay my youngest boy’s pre-school tuition in a few weeks. So, I wondered just what all went into the Head Start program that the American Taxpayer is paying for. I looked up a few numbers, as I am prone to do and found out that not only am I ineligible to have my child attend head start, as 95% of children in America are, but also that the average per capita cost per child is over six and in some cases ten times what my cost to enroll my son in a program is. Now, I don’t know if this strikes anyone else as odd, but it sure hit home with me.

Maybe I am oversensitive, but I feel that as an American that every child has a right to a quality education and a good start in life. I, however, do not see spending anywhere from $7,000 – $10,000 per child for pre-school as a wise use of that money when some private pre-schools charge anywhere from $1,000 4,000 to perform the same service. I am no expert, but this just seems like being wasteful for the sake of being wasteful. Not only are you saying that only certain children who are at the quote “poverty line” are important, but you are also making it harder for those who are financially strapped and unable to send their kids to pre-school feel like failures.

The people we are leaving “alone” as Hoosier Uplands would say are the ones who work hard and try to make something out of their lives. A good example came up today. About 17 years ago I worked in the local grocery store. I worked with a man who had Down’s syndrome. He is still working in the store today and we, my family and I, ran into him. I shook his hand and he gave the kids a high five. This man goes to work every week, gets a paycheck and has pride in his life. I have absolutely no problem knowing that my tax dollars are going to help support this man in any services he may need.

The previous story is meant to mark the stark contrast. This man has a disability and is recognized as someone in need of assistance. However, there are many people who work just as hard and eventually give up because the system works against them. A great example is the person who is whole sale on public assistance. This person gets food, housing, education, health care, and even cash in order to live (assuming they have children). Now this same person has the fortitude and gumption to get a job and start to work. They can only find a job making $6.00 and hour. However, now their benefits are cut with a total disregard for how it will affect the larger picture.

I am not trying to be cold or callous here. It is the system that is cold and callous. The person that works hard, struggles, and claws their way out of poverty is beaten down and stepped on at every turn by the government and the oppressive policies that are meant to help. After all, if we truly wanted to help those in need, we would give a voucher that would pay for a good pre-school in their area. We would allow them to purchase services they need, but with guidance and help from the community, not by supplying them a sub-standard and inaccessible substitute.

Why in America are we so afraid to let people help one another? Since when did government become the solution to all problems? We could solve poverty by truly subsidizing, not punishing those who want to work and need benefits to offset the differential. If a person makes $6.00/hr., they lose that much in benefits and as they get a raise, they lose more until the amount they make allows them to live at the same standard as the state benefits did before they got their job. Instead, our society puts them in apartments that many people making good money could not afford, provides them with free healthcare, education, and food and then yanks all of that away when they try to improve their lives.

I know this may seem like a tirade or a stretch, but trust me it is not. When we spend more per student in a failing public school than it costs for students to go to some of the best private schools in America, something is broken. When we force people to choose between food for their children and their own personal sense of self esteem and self worth, something is broken. When we teach children that all they have to do is let the state help them, something is broken. Finally, when we turn a blind eye to governmental misconduct, something is broken.

I don’t have all of the answers. Hell, I am just a simple man who reads a bit and works hard to create a good life for my family. However, I know how I would fix it. I would lower taxes, cut bureaucracy, institute vouchers, and allow people to keep more of their money and donate it to causes such as community, religious and civic organizations. I would encourage institutions such as the Salvation Army and Life Pantry Food Banks. I would give a helping hand to those in need and not slap them down for trying. Education is a lifelong process and if we teach people, regardless of age, not to appreciate and work for what they have, we fail them as a community. I would allow America to heal herself.

It may seem like a lot to say just because I drove past a billboard and maybe it is. However, if we don’t say it, We Are Broken. As a proud American citizen, I refuse to be broken. I refuse to believe that this country is not capable of repairing herself and rising once again to be the beacon of light she always has been. The problem with America is that government is getting in the way of Americans doing what they do best, ACHIEVING.