Thursday, June 1, 2017

Homework Starts with Home

Stop reading if you do not want to read a bit of a political rant at the end of my post. I didn't do my Affirmation Tuesday. I've been thrown off all week with what day is what. DD2 is on 6 more days and counting until summer. My obnoxiously dear friend from childhood, now a 4th grade teacher, posts his daily obnoxious countdown to summer. I picked the wrong side of education to go into, I think every May, June, July, and August! However, had I gone the traditional teacher route, I might have missed out on some the incredible opportunities I have had to impact real change and reform in education. No snide comments please about the state of the US education system. I know very well things are tough in many parts of the country, with many children still falling behind and not able to catch up. Yet, there are solutions, if we can harness the good thinking into solid policy and practice implementation, and reverse negative trends. 

I've been working on a broad initiative in Minnesota to prevent and end homelessness. The image that often comes to mind when people think homeless is  huddled masses under bridges, the elderly women pushing a shopping cart of pop cans, the man with a dog panhandling on the side of the road. The sad truth is there are over 9,000 homeless adults,youth (14-24), and children in Minnesota alone. Many are in shelters, temporary accommodations in hotels, or doubling up with other family members, hopping from home to home, and yes, living in cars and on the streets. It can't come as a surprise that the attendance at school, and therefore the grades, of children and youth impacted by homelessness are affected. Our particular component, Homework Starts with Home, specifically has strategies aimed at stabilizing  housing for children and families. It's a big lift, and I am proud to be a part of the effort. 

When I get a little worked up about the current federal administration, and particularly the secretary of education's views, it is for good reason, and from experience. Public schools must serve all children. Vouchers that allow  funds to go to a private school might sound like school choice for families, but only when the student is a "choice" for the school. Private schools can and many do, have discerning enrollment criteria. Add the economic and geographic diversity of children that must be served in public schools, taking just a few pupil units worth of funding out of a school can mean educational hardship for the children left behind. Busing gets cut. After school child care and tutoring is non existent and meal programs that could be part of the school aren't offered because there is no one to administer them. Communities struggling with a transient population feel the hardship even more, and it cripples the ability to think creatively on how to best ensure stable and regular attendance. I can't create more affordable housing units, but I can work hard to ensure the education safety net is there for these kiddos. That's one thing off their parents mind as they try to figure out how to create a home for all the homework good students want to master-even when school is out for summer.

12 comments:

  1. I despise that woman and everything she's doing to destroy public schools. Only time will tell if meal programs will be cut and if so I'll probably be out of a job and kids will be left with just a giant sh#t sandwich, (pardon my French), but it's something I worry about lately. (angry face)

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    1. I used to work closely on the USDA Child and adult Care food program. Again, while changes perhaps are needed, healthy meals and learning do go side by side. A hungry child does not learn well when trying to concentrate on not having their tummies rumble.

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  2. While I am no fan of the current Sec. of Education I am also not a fan of having a Dept. of Education(reasons for which I won't go into here)as a federal agency.

    No matter what is done to get kids to achieve better grades in the system it won't do much good due to the social ills that form the basis of why Johnny can't read. Though it's not social correct, I'll go ahead and say it anyway.....people need to do 3 things if they want to succeed in life(and as a result pass on a good foundation to their heirs)and in this order--graduate high school(and actually learn something while there and not just go there to socialize), don't marry until you are financially stable and don't have children until the first two items are checked off your list. If single women(or men)weren't raising 1 in 4 children alive today and non-custodial parents where actually held accountable to supporting their offspring, then 40% of our country's children would not be living below the poverty line.
    My line of thought illustrated in this article--
    https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-teens-should-follow-to-join-the-middle-class/

    If people lived by those 3 rules of personally responsiblity it would go a long way to decrease homelessness in this country.
    But that's just the start and I am aware there are other reasons for homelessness and poverty.

    And that is my rant for the morning. ;-)

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    1. I can't argue against the fact that starting poor and behind in social factors makes the climb even more difficult. While major reform could and should happen at a national level, I don't want a country where the minimum standards vary from state to state depending on the priorities of that state's governor and legislature. This country can't afford to deepen pockets of ignorance and low skills. That is why I feel there needs to be a national focus on baseline standards, but turn over the implementation to states, and communities. I'm just happy people are engaging in the discussion-so thank you for commenting.

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    2. I agree with Sluggy entirely. Single parenting is a huge detriment to ensuring the success of kids. I personally think it doesn't do ANY bit of good, in fact, does real harm for kids to go from before school care, to school, then after school care, not to return home until after 6 p.m. because no parent is home due to work. Then, tweens and teens who age out of daycare are left home unattended, but, hey, they have cell phones, so they can reach mom or dad at any time. No, a phone is not a substitute for parenting. Sure, kids of that age CAN fend for themselves, but will they? Pass me the homework, please. Today's kids don't even have basic table manners, much less know how to cook a simple, frugal meal.
      I get that people have to work, but don't tell me both parents need to in order to make ends meet. Because, if you did the top three things Sluggy mentioned, you would swing it easily. It's politically incorrect, but adults need to stop expecting others to take care of them. While the ability of states to provide assistance to those in need is a great thing, actually NEEDING it isn't. Seriously, the parents of my kids' class who qualify for such basic even reduced breakfast think these programs as a panacea...and these parents could easily afford to make breakfast, but "I have to get ready, I don't have time to fix them breakfast."
      Your goal should be self sufficiency, through a good job which you gain through education. Maybe if today's parents could look beyond the ends of their noses, they would raise kids and ho would be a lot less short sighted. Sorry, but it seems so simple to me. As my very liberal, progressive parents taught me, YOU CAN'T HAVE KIDS UNTIL YOU GET MARRIED. YOU CAN'T MARRY ANYBODY WHO CANNOT MANAGE TO SUPPORT A FAMILY, WHICH YOU CAN'T DO UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED YOUR EDUCATION. YOU CAN'T GET AN EDUCATION IF YOU ARE FOCUSING ON NONSENSE.
      The formula works.

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    3. My only response is, I wish life was so simple. I wish jobs paid living wages all the time. I wish pesky things like mental health and physical health wouldn't impact best laid plans. I wish the world was perfect. But until it is, my focus is, and must be, on the kids.

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  3. Agree with everything. Am continually disgusted by the prioritization & shift on caring only about a few vs coming up with (admittedly imperfect) solutions to help everyone. Keep fighting the good fight.

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    1. I fight daily, but I am disgusted that is has to be a fight.

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  4. Warning: Rant ahead!

    My husband and I raised our daughter humbly. No luxury cars, no fancy McMansion, no rented storage unit housing loads of consumer junk. When we decided to have children (yes, we actually planned it - referring to Sluggy's succinct comment) we knew he/she would be attending college. So we saved and invested our money solely for that purpose throughout the years. Consequently, she will have no debt upon graduation. Also, a point I want to make is that college was not made an option she could opt out of. College is a given. Finish Pre K - 12, then go directly to college and graduate with at minimum a Bachelor's degree. Other families I've witnessed over the years who made college an option for their children are seeing those same children struggle with just a high school degree trying to find jobs. And yes, I am familiar with the argument that college grads also may have a hard time landing a job upon graduation, but you cannot convince me that higher education is not worth it. Yes, there might be student loan debt to face, but still, it will be worth it in the end. Can you imagine if everyone in the U.S. decided to settle on just a high school education? Frightening.

    By the way, I was one of those kids who lived below the poverty line, though not homeless. Raised by a single mother of four, I remember searching the kitchen for food, only to find margarine to eat. Needless to say, it's hard focusing on school/homework when you haven't eaten in days. I commend you on your efforts to help struggling families!

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    1. I'm truly happy that your plan since before your child was born worked out. As your second story points out, it isn't always so straight forward though. I truly wish every parent was responsible, that children weren't left to be raised by a single struggling parent that doesn't earn enough for basic necessities. Thanks for commenting.

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  5. This is a double edged sword and unfortunately children are the pawns. Short of restricting breeding to those who are able and ready to take on the responsibility
    of parenthood, there are always going to be kids who fall through the cracks. Short of taking children from parents who do not meet a set criteria, (And how horrible would that be!) I see no long tern solutions.

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    1. I'm not in a place to say who should or shouldn't be parents. I just know once the kids are here, it is part of my humanity to help build a safety net.

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