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DO WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT SPENDING OUR DOLLARS IN HUMAN SERVICES AND EDUCATION IN A WHOLE NEW WAY

April 9th, 2013 at Tue, 9th, 2013 at 12:22 pm by lesliehamada

When government and school districts are facing many challenges in their budgets, are we really in critical times or are we in times that are not keeping up with new ideas and thought processes of investments that need to be challenged and perhaps changed? I have spent most of my professional career in the business sector. When I retired I began pouring more of my time in areas that I wanted to learn more about in human services and acting as Director of Emergency Services at Kent United Methodist Church, I have expanded over the last ten years my knowledge of human service issues. I joined regional organizations, committees and the last two years have served proudly on the Human Services Commission for Covington. Giving out resources directly has put me in close proximity of individuals needing those services. I have the privilege of hearing their stories and how their daily lives are going. I get to visit agencies and organizations that receive or hope to receive government funding. I also get to see the other end of Federal, State, and local government policies. How they work, what is achieved, is this really doing what it was set out to do?  This has given me valuable experience which I am sure that someone bigger than I has planned for me. I also, long before I retired have spent many hours in schools as a parent, PTA officer, mentor and tutor. My journey of tutoring in high risk elementary schools began in the 60′s in Beacon Hill at T T Minor Elementary School when as a young college student I was watching the riots on TV and was awakened in my dorm at Bellarmine Hall at Seattle University for a bomb threat and we had to clear the building. My experiences of life were just beginning and I felt overwhelmed with what was around me and on the media. But…I felt compelled to do something, so I signed up to tutor every Saturday to help children who were falling way behind in school. The children in this school came from homes that had economic challenges and were primarily children of color. That journey of mentoring and tutoring has taken me throughout my life and the experience of working with children and youth, being in their homes, sharing food often or events has given me an insight to many more human services issues.

We are in a time in history when the name of the game is change. To keep abreast with the latest technology we have to adapt, learn, and keep fine tuning skills. One thing I truly believe is that we have to look at new ideas and ways of doing things differently. I want my grandchildren to experience the same quality of life or perhaps even better than I. If we do not find a way of educating and preparing our children (future citizens and taxpayers) differently I am not so sure they will be able to do it. There are big battles going on in our own State right now in Olympia of where to put money in education-class size, testing, Charter Schools, teacher evaluations, curriculum, standard base grading and many other issues.

I spend every Monday taking care of my new granddaughter, I have two other older grandchildren also. What this has done for me is to watch this infant search for knowledge. She takes her hands and studies them, she makes screeches with her voice and is so impressed, she takes her fingers and touches an IPAD and she makes music by touching different keys and new sounds are heard. When you read books to her she studies the pages and the colors and the shapes. She is not even one year old—but her world is evolving—the things around her and who is around her and what they are doing for her and to her—are all being put in her little computer called—her brain. Articles are written by educators about all day kindergarten and how it pays off and now even finding funds for earlier learning in pre-schools funded by districts. I think all these programs and ideas are showing positive results that children can enter kindergarten ready to go at the same or close to it level and are a good investment.

The conversation that I think is being missed is infants begin learning and adapting to their environment and forming perceptions at birth. probably even in the womb. Are we not missing a real investment opportunity to maximize our dollars in not looking at the whole picture. An investment in families. When children are in the school settings for x amount of time they still spend a great deal of time in their home environment. Don’t get me wrong, I value having good early education for preschoolers and also instructional kindergartens. But what if we looked at investing in families at birth. When infants are born there are more programs at hospitals to sign up moms and dads for help with raising this child and more programs where trained individuals who are culturally competent and speak the language needed to communicate with the families walk with the parents in the early stages. They would be coming into the homes and helping to show nutritional needs for infants and children, educational needs they could begin at birth, and in the case of individuals struggling with money issues direct them to agencies that might assist wit these issues. You are probably saying this would cost tons of money or would it —in the long run? If you began to empower parents with the tools to help their children early on—would you see less need in future years? Would you see less money going into discipline issues in schools? Would you find out learning disabilities sooner and get the help early on? Would you develop a system where parents feel empowered to begin to become the first educators? Would you see less medical issues down the road? This is a pilot program that I would like to see developed and I have not seen anywhere in the country that anyone is advising to work on the whole family in the infant age for education.

In February, James Heckman, one of the nation’s top economists studying human development showed the gathered business executives a chart showing the United States’ entire approach to education should be demolished. This chart shows the real gap is prior to entering kindergarten. Yes…we are beginning in some areas to address this issue but I personally feel it needs to go back even earlier—at birth. He went on to say this is the main reason that income inequality is passed down from generation to generation. The government spends about 5.5 percent of the nation’s economic output in total from preschool to college. Now we are talking about some money there. Again, we need to start thinking in more out of the box methods to make what we are spending pay off. I welcome some dialogue on this issue. We, as a community, if we are investing in our tax dollars need to be getting the best returns for our investments.

 

 

Leslie is a wife, mother, & grandmother. She has worked in marketing, communications, & writing professionally. For the past 17 years she has resided in the Covington area and doing volunteer work in the King County Area. While her children attended University Place Schools she was actively involved in youth activities and PTA. She was in executive leadership in the organization as President in school PTA on all levels. In addition she held a District PTA leadership position. Currently her youngest child Lisa is a teacher and last year was recognized as NASPE 2009 High School Physical Education Teacher of the Nation. Her two sons are employed in Computer and engineer firms. She has two beautiful grandchildren. Leslie's pride & joy is Pee Wee Hamada her stay at home Cocker spaniel and her inspiration for her first Children's Book: "Pee Wee's Adventure In the Woods" which addresses boundaries for young children and safety issues through an exciting animal book. Leslie has been actively involved in her Community volunteering for over 40 years. She has mentored in high risk elementary schools since college. Presently she is Director for emergency services for her church Kent United Methodist. She is Chair of the Kent Ecumenical Network Board. It is her sixth year on Catholic Community Advocacy Board. She received an award last year from Governor Gregoire for work with felons. This past year she was recognized for work in social justice and poverty by the South King County Human Service Commission. Last year she received an award from the Southern Sudanese Organization in Seattle. In 2005 she received the SKC Award for the Spirit of Caring. In 2005 she traveled to San Francisco to work at the Soup Kitchen of Glide Memorial and help with immigrant Chinese pre-school students at Gum Moon Community. Her passion is working with kids and social justice issues. Presently she is working to start a Kids Boxing Program in the Kent East Hill area to give the kids a great after school program.

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