Parents as Teachers is a program funded primarily by the state to bring educators into the homes of preschool youngsters and help assure they will be prepared for school when that time arrives. The program is currently a $30 million funding project but gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt wants to add another $5 million and expand the program.
If you consider that the Head Start program has similar goals, it's hard to argue that Missouri is not doing enough to provide early support for kids about to enter the school system.
But for a program with a 20-year track record, I would have thought testing results for those youngsters would have increased dramatically over that time. They have not. Don't misunderstand. Parents as Teachers is an excellent attempt to involve primarily young parents - often single mothers - into their child's education.
What we need is a new program called Parents as Parents. This new program would target those adults with young children. At that early stage in life, it's not the children necessarily who need the training and attention. It's the parents who often are ill-equipped to be a parent, who have no parenting skills, who may have lifestyle issues, etc. If we simply focus on the children we ignore the major issue guiding their lives.
I won't fault any program that attempts to give an early start to learning. But putting books into a home where there is no parental involvement is a silly notion concocted for all the right reasons but without any of the right results. The real benefit - at least to me - is the home visit aspect of the Parents as Teachers program. You cannot judge a home environment for learning without actually being inside of that house. I would think that educators could address a host of problems simply by visiting that home.
Unfortunately, there must be some ability to address change with that parent other than an empty recommendation.
Blunt may be on the right track by calling for even more funding for the Parents as Teacher program. But with that call of money should come some additional form of accountability. Just because the program makes us feel good about ourselves doesn't automatically mean the program is effective. And as with every aspect of taxpayer funding, programs should be able to measure their success if they expect the public to provide the funds.