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Oppose Senate Bill 298, and keep preschools open

February 4, 2019

I have been involved in early childhood education in Albuquerque for more than 25 years. I am a former president of the New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children. I am writing to voice my opposition to Senate Bill 298, which would move all 4-year-olds out of quality, private, New Mexico pre-K programs and into the public school system.

I have a “Reggio” inspired preschool that has been open only since 2016. (In 1991, the Diana School in Reggio Emilia Italy was named by Newsweek the best preschool in the world.) It was voted one of the top five preschools in the city of Albuquerque in 2017, and was voted the top day care and also one of the top five preschools in the city in 2018 by Albuquerque Magazine.

Since 2016, we have gone through the quality improvement process through the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, and progressed from two to five stars, which is the highest level of quality. The organization I co-founded, Children’s Choice Child Care Services, has been named one of the top workplaces in New Mexico by the Albuquerque Journal six years in a row. This preschool offers high-quality New Mexico pre-K, licensed through CYFD.

If SB 298 passes, it will destroy this school that serves only 3- to 5-year-olds as soon as it is implemented. It would be impossible to keep this school open serving only 3-year-olds. The approximately $300,000 we have spent to create and get this beautiful and innovative school up and running would be lost. This would be devastating.

In addition, many other child care centers in New Mexico would be devastated. Many of them would go out of business or eliminate the much-needed infant and toddler slots to survive. So, many working and taxpaying parents would lose infant and toddler care.

In addition, since the Public Education Department pre-K operates in the public schools, these programs don’t offer the same extended hours of education and care that private providers do. Public schools have school day (vs. workday) hours, and a school year (vs. work year) calendar. Working, tax-paying families who now have access to pre-K programs that offer care during extended hours and during winter break, spring break, conference weeks and summer breaks would have no care for their preschool children.

I am in favor of expanding pre-K, even to the extent of making universal pre-K available to all, but not if that means taking kids from the educational programs that their parents selected (Reggio, Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) and sticking them in a the failing Public Education Department system to be educated through boxed curriculum Opening the World of Learning, written by the textbook company Pearson, the author of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests.

I urge all New Mexicans to support pre-K expansion initiatives that maintain a mixed delivery system through CYFD, the Public Education Department and the private sector and those that protect parent choice in the education of their young children.

Mike Ashcraft is co-founder and CEO of Children’s Choice Child Care Services Inc. in Albuquerque.

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