This article originally appeared in Education Week.
There’s been little discussion about early-childhood education so far on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, but the PBS NewsHour filled the gap with a panel discussion Wednesday.
Sponsored by the Save the Children Action Network and moderated by Lisa Stark of Education Week, the panel included Ohio state Sen. Peggy Lehner, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate’s education committee; Paul Clark, the regional vice president of PNC Bank; Sandra Russ, a professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University who specializes in children’s pretend play; and Katie Kelly, the director of PRE4CLE, a public-private partnership that is supporting high-quality preschool in Cleveland.
While the GOP convention has been primarily focused on spelling out the differences between the two parties, this discussion showed that quality early-childhood programs could be an issue of agreement, not just between the parties, but also between the public and private sectors.
A few key quotes:
Lehner: “We have got to move away from the idea of thinking that, well, if we can afford early childhood we’ll pay for it for a small section of kids, to an attitude that school in this modern age starts earlier.”
Clark: “It shouldn’t matter what your ZIP code is when you’re born, and it shouldn’t matter if you’re in a low and moderate-income environment. We want to make sure there’s complete access for everybody into an early, high-quality, childhood-education seat. And that’s not the case today.”
Russ: “It’s really important to have playtime in the classroom, to have guided play in the classroom for these 4, 5, 6-year-olds … this has to be fun for children. We can get so focused on developing these programs—children have to have fun. They have to like coming to school, because it’s setting the stage for all of those years that come next.”
Kelly: “If we’re building a foundation, we have to build it in those first five years. Everything that we build on top of that cannot be strong if that child is entering the kindergarten door, as some of our children in Cleveland do, without ever having opened a book.”