Should Dayton be investing in child care?

Michelle Obama and I are in total agreement, according to a story in today’s New York Times:

As first lady, Mrs. Obama has said, she plans to make herself an advocate for working parents, particularly military families, urging better access to child care for all. Trying to juggle public duties with two young children, she will be a living illustration of the very issue she describes.

A Family Expected to Balance State Dinners With Sleepovers – NYTimes.com.

When I first ran for Mayor one of my proposals (note: I actually proposed things, imagine that) was to build 24 hour subsidized day care for working citizens of Dayton and subsidized to a lesser extent- for those who just came to the city to work. My goals were two-fold:

  • To differentiate Dayton and give it a competitive advantage in recruiting employers and employees, since good childcare can be expensive, especially to lower income, lower skilled workers. With Dayton’s average household income hovering around the poverty line, it was intended to help give citizens a chance to break the chain of poverty.
  • To help prepare children for lifelong learning. Headstart programs don’t start early enough, with key developmental processes taking place between birth and three.

Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and AmericaTo further justify the value of an emphasis on early childhood education, one only needs to look at the work of:

educational visionary Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone—currently serving more than 7,000 children and encompassing 97 city blocks—represents an audacious effort to end poverty within underserved communities. Canada’s radical experiment is predicated upon changing everything in these communities—creating an interlocking web of services targeted at the poorest and least likely to succeed children: establishing programs to prepare and support parents, a demanding k-8 charter school and a range of after-school programs for high school students.
Whatever it Takes

And although I only heard of Geoff’s work recently, on “This American Life” I’ve been convinced that Dayton isn’t going to see the return of a robust economy until we start doing things very different, and place a strong emphasis on educational attainment and intellectual pursuits. We didn’t get to be the birthplace of aviation, the home to so many great inventors and becoming a model of a new form of government (the City Manager system) by accepting the status quo.

We’re in the process of completing the last of our new school buildings, we overwhelmingly passed Issue 52, the new school levy- even though many of us are suffering financially thanks to powers way above our pay grade, and we have a new school superintendent who seems quite focused on promoting strong new leaders to these schools (I’m lucky to be friends with two new principals in DPS).

If there was ever a time to begin a radical new early childhood education program it would be now- while the Federal Government is looking to invest in job creation, new programs that support education and ways to jump start the rust belt economy.

Michelle Obama- are you listening? Want to help?

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8 Responses

  1. Jeff November 6, 2008 / 6:58 pm
    David, if you read Obamas’ platform it specifically mentions the Harlems Childrens’ Zone as a model and possible demonstration program for other citys.

    If this is still on the agenda, it might make sense to somehow lobby the administration so Dayton can be one of the communities they select.

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  2. David Esrati November 6, 2008 / 9:06 pm

    Thanks for the heads up Jeffery!

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  3. John Ise November 7, 2008 / 3:23 pm
    Right on! The Harlem Children’s Zone is a great, albeit tremendously expensive, initiative (I think it runs around $75 million to do the Harlem initiative a year). Nevertheless, improve schools and the parenting skills of children in those schools, and constructively engage parents and children in the early years in life (ideally 0-5 years old as their brains cognitively develop), all the better. Couple this with a making every Dayton school a “community school” where after school/day care services are available as well as a host of other services. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DrGHkNbIeQ for more.

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  4. Jeff November 7, 2008 / 4:07 pm
    Here’s the blurb from Obama’s platform website:

    “# Establish ‘Promise Neighborhoods’ for Areas of Concentrated Poverty: Successful strategies to address concentrated, intergenerational poverty are comprehensive in nature and address the full range of obstacles that stand in the way of poor children. One highly-acclaimed model is the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, which provides a full network of services to an entire neighborhood from birth to college. Obama and Biden will create 20 Promise Neighborhoods in cities that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement.”

    Here’s the Harlem Childrens’ Zone website, which has downloads on their programs.

    http://www.hcz.org/

    Reading some of it it seems a lot of their funding comes from philanthropy. This in a wealthy city like New York. It’s doubtfull if the Dayton region has that kind of capacity to support something like HCZ.

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  5. Drexel Dave November 7, 2008 / 8:12 pm
    To make “Community Schools” the leadership of DPS will have to:

    1. Disallow students to attend any school within the district that they want to.

    2. SCREAM at the top of their lungs for an end to charter schools, or at least for an end for the requirement to require public school systems to provide transportation for charter school students. It has created a labrinth of complexity that is impossible to manage effectively. Not only does it cost way too much, it takes too many drivers, causes too many route changes, which then causes more absenteeism (drivers don’t like constant route and school changes, you need to know your kids, parents and routes), and is in general a big mess.

    You could eliminate about 50% of the transportation budget with those two moves (one required by the statehouse), while simultaneously ATTRACTING more people into the district, and more tax monies.

    Plus, you wouldn’t have to lay off drivers. Institute a hiring freeze, and eliminate staff through retirement, attrition and moving some to other departments.

    But this would be a big move, and I don’t see any big movers at DPS – mostly status quo beaureacrats.

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  6. Gene November 8, 2008 / 2:15 pm
    I think we should hire one person per 3 DPS households to make sure that they are doing their homework, eating properly, and go to bed on time. We used to call these “parents,” but sense responsibility of people seems to be a secondary issue, we should just go ahead and hire people to act as parents.

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  7. Jane November 12, 2008 / 12:30 pm
    Ingenious!

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