- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2014


A seminal study of D.C.’s public schools in the late 1990s concluded that the longer a child stayed in the system, the worse off he became.

Well, now that universal pre-K continues sweeping the nation, guess what?

Comes evidence that the wet nurses are treating tykes and toddlers like their older counterparts.

That is to say, the little ones are being suspended and expelled, too.

Preschoolers have “temper tantrums.”

Preschoolers are “disruptive.”

Preschoolers have “restroom” accidents.

Quelle horreur.

The preschoolers are behaving like preschool-age children, so schools stack the deck against them.

Welcome to the new world order in public education, where toddlers are expected to act like teens and punished when they do just that.

And D.C. isn’t the only school district.

I first raised concerns about universal and compulsory pre-K in June 2001, when then-D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous introduced legislation to introduce 3-year-olds to daily public schooling.

At the time, Mr. Chavous said his measure “would force the school system to take charge and responsibility for every 3- and 4-year-old in the city to make sure they are prepared for kindergarten.”

I questioned whether 3- and 4-year-olds, and certainly some 2-year-olds, were physically, emotionally and mentally prepared to be away from their parents and forced into a rigid academic and group environment for six- and seven-hour stretches for five days a week.

The answer is a resounding no.

During the 2012-13 school year, 205 D.C. pre-kindergarteners were suspended.

In fact, the higher the grade level in the District’s public schools, the higher the suspension and expulsion numbers.

According to the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education: In addition to the preschoolers, suspensions or expulsions were handed to 213 kindergartners, 489 first graders, 560 second-graders, 676 third graders and, well, you get the gist of the underlying issue.

When teachers and principals say, “Don’t bother us. We can’t cope with small children,” they mean it, and they kick Joshua and his soiled drawers out of class to prove it.

Now, that doesn’t mean the school system loses money.

To the contrary, the school system gets to keep the money, and the Obama administration wants to dole out additional dollars.

Please do not jump into that school-to-prison pipeline debate.

This isn’t about kids bringing guns and other weapons to school, or kids who’ve adopted “constant truant” as a middle name, or kids who think education is an allergy, or bullying and violence.

This is about the facts of life: 3- and 4-year-olds are too young for the rigors of a public schoolhouse.

Small kids haven’t a clue.

When they want something, they beg, scream, cry and pout about the something they want.

Oftentimes, they snatch or toss something to express themselves, or they might even bite or kick.

We’ve seen small kids act out at home, on the bus or airplane, and in stores and eateries — and we usually give them a break because tantrums are what kids perform when they are frustrated.

Do we really expect a public school teacher to properly handle them?

Unfortunately, D.C. Council member David Grosso, at-large independent, does. On Monday, he introduced a measure that would ban out-of-school expulsions and suspensions in pre-K programs that are funded by the city, and most of his colleagues signed on.

None of them really gets it, though.

The problem isn’t the policy; the problem is the premise that public schools can raise and education small children.

The stats already prove that, and additional data won’t change that.

The end result will be more money down the drain — along with our children.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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