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The Pre-K Challenge

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

The challenge is to discover how to effectively provide approaches to education in a way that provides group empowerment in a world hostile to group liberation and  (that group’s) value system.            
                           - Alan Colon


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

The popular Pre-K train, after previous Ohio stops in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton, is rapidly approaching. The Toledo-bound movement, a strategic priority of Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, is loaded with tangible philanthropic resources along with support from Toledo’s corporate and nonprofit communities.

What does universal Pre-K mean for Toledo’s black community?

Black people have always understood the need for quality education. When the social and economic circumstances depended upon our need to provide agricultural labor in the South, many black children were required to help in the fields rather than attend school. But during the two or three month respite when planting or harvesting the crops were not taking place, these same children would go joyously running, skipping and jumping down unpaved roads to the schoolhouse to get their “edu-macation.”

Also, during the part of American history when blacks were not allowed to go to schools with whites, poor blacks would raise chickens and sell eggs and put their nickels, dimes and quarters together in order to build their own black schools, colleges and universities.

So there has never been a lack of understanding in the black community about the need for children to develop literacy or other educational skills, even by those who, themselves, lacked those same abilities.

Rather, the question for black folks has been whether the interests of the black community can be aligned with the interests of the predominately white led educational system and its establishment friends or partners.

Bridging the Cultural Divide:

When queried about the arrival of Pre-K in Toledo, many people that I have talked to are wondering whether the recent Pre-K movement is an attempt to sever childcare (the largest black business industry in the community) away from black providers and redirect the enterprising activity to the white educational mainstream.  

Also, many black parents will withhold their children from centers that they perceive as boring or not engaging as well as from those where they feel that their children are not emotionally or physically safe.

What is certain is that, historically, black daycare and the black church, have been the only consistent formal or informal efforts to inform, educate and socialize the masses of African Americans in culturally competent and culturally-affirming ways that enable them to effectively meet a world hostile to their existence.

So, the advancing pre-K train must find ways to bridge the cultural gap between the pre-K establishment and the interests of the black community.

Assessing Quality:

Related to the challenge of bridging the cultural divide is the need to discover alternative ways to assess the quality of Pre-K providers.

Current quality assessment of childcare centers is based on the Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) model, which provides one to five stars with each additional star indicating increasing quality.

The problem with this system is that the determinants of quality (stars) are commensurate with the amount of resources a provider brings to the table and thus elevates childcare centers that have resources or are more corporately structured over smaller neighborhood/community centers are often equally or more effective and more culturally responsive to the needs of black and children of color.

Providing Access:

Finally, how does universal Pre-K impact access for black children or other children affected by generational poverty?

By placing universal in the education/childcare marketplace, people with greater economic means will also take advantage of the supported system in order to save the money that they are currently paying for childcare.   

“If I can find a two orthree-star rated center where I can take my kid for four hours and don’t have to pay for it? Of course! I’ll save $1,200 a month, so I’m all in!” said one middle class parent.

At the same time, the black people and those living in poverty are likely to say, “I don’t trust the system, I want Miss Mary, I want grandma, or I want my child at home,”

So, while we all understand that there is a need for children to come to school prepared and even have a potential funding mechanism in mind, providing access and getting the maximum benefits to the children who need Pre-K most, has not yet been determined.

The solution requires an educational approach that meets both the interests of the black community as well as those of the white led power structure.

In other words, the system must be culturally responsive to black children, compatible with the business model of black childcare enterprises and provide equitable access for all children.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/07/19 08:32:11 -0500.



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