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Humpty Dumpty: A great fall caused by state mandates

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POSTED August 9, 2010 2:22 a.m.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
The entire king’s horses and all the king’s men
couldn’t put Humpty together again.

 -English nursery rhyme

The playground at Humpty Dumpty Preschool Parent Co-Op will be devoid of the laughter of children at play when Manteca Adult School launches its fall semester in the coming weeks

The long-running success story of helping parents become better parents while at the same time effectively helping prepare kids for school is a victim of a great fall.

But that fall has as much to do with Sacramento Educators Gone Wild as it does with the massive state budget deficit.

Humpty Dumpty has been a success story for 44 years under the auspices of the Manteca Adult School. During that time the state has rolled out all sorts of preschool initiatives in a bid to enhance the odds of youngsters doing well when they start 13 years of formal schooling as a kindergartner.

Many of Humpty Dumpty’s participating parents have been single mothers with many working on completing their high school degree. The success of Humpty Dumpty can be measured in many ways but its impact on young single moms and their children is off the charts.

These are - if you listen to the education experts in Sacramento - among the groups that are among the most at risk. Not all participating in the parent co-op were single moms. They were almost all, though, young moms.

So why close Humpty Dumpty?

The answer isn’t all that complicated. The Manteca Unified school board really had no choice. Not just because adult education funding was severely cut forcing them to concentrate on core programs essential for students they serve to obtain their general education development (GED) diploma. It is true adult money has dried up due to the budget crisis.

But the real reason is what money is set aside for preschool has been preordained as to how it is best spent by strings attached by Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

In other words decisions and regulations passed down by politicians and education bureaucrats in Sacramento have dictated that there are better uses for what preschool funding is left. Granted, that doesn’t go through adult education but it underscores that local control is a farce.

The seven men and women we elect to oversee Manteca Unified schools have their hands tied.

The state has essentially decided what preschools -if any get funded.  If a district wants state money for preschools they have to subject themsleves to Sacramento’s one-size-fits-all approach to local education.

School districts that secure preschool money can’t look at various programs and decide where it is most effective to get the most bang for the buck based on local situations.

The state of course, will claim they are lifting some of the chains off requirements they place on local school districts to get regurgitated money that is essentially taken as property tax and backfilled as average daily attendance funds.

How convenient. Local control only exists when the state can’t control their spending so they are forced to slash spending to education and then say spend it as you must while at the same time adding an asterisk in that mandated state programs must be kept in place.

This way they can shift some of the blame to local districts.

Rest assured that once money starts flowing again it will be back to normal with the state having complete control.

Critics of Proposition 13 will say that the property tax reform measure put in place by angry voters in1978 was when control shifted to Sacramento. That, however, is not correct. The state over the years leading up to Proposition 13 had been  slowly eroding local control over the most critical decisions such as how money is actually spent for instruction.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how successful Humpty Dumpty was as a preschool. It lacked the blessing of a state-mandated program and as such there was no way it could weather the current education funding crisis.

The sad part is the co-op model has had a significant impact on the future education of kids for 44 years.
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