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Forum editorial: Pass early childhood education bill

Opposition in the North Dakota Legislature to a good early childhood education bill is about as shortsighted and myopic as it gets. Led primarily by Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, and Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, the opponents seem determined to send a message that allowing 3- and 4-year-old children to get an early and beneficial start on learning amounts to a sinister plot to destroy the family. What ignorant nonsense. It’s as if they long for the time when barefoot, pregnant and home-no-matter- what was the status of most women. It’s as if their vision of “family” hearkens back to a “Father Knows Best” TV family utopian era that, an honest assessment shows, never existed.

Senate Bill 2151 has support from most school districts, experienced family advocates, the business community, educators and families. It is pro-education legislation at it’s best. It is pro-family in its intent. Nonetheless, ideological opposition most often is based not on credible education research but rather on a constricted view of the realities families confront, and on a purposefully selective reading of the demonstrated benefits of getting kids into a stimulating learning environment as quickly as possible.

It’s clear that opponents of funding early childhood education are not representing their constituents. For example, there is overwhelming support among parents and educators in West Fargo and Fargo for expanded and comprehensive early education opportunities. Young families that are trying to make ends meet with two incomes appreciate an option of high-quality education for their young children. When it’s done in the public schools, parents can know the kids not only are in a safe environment but also are in the care of skilled teachers who specialize in early childhood education. It’s a win for families, and eventually a win for children who learn to embrace learning.

Not all lawmakers have the best interests of children and families at the top of their legislative agendas. Too often – especially in the North Dakota House – the debate gets hijacked by forces determined to turn back the clock on progressive education and the realities of 21st century family life. The attack on SB 2151 is a symptom of the hijackers’ overall modus operandi, whether threatening the welfare of children or denying rights to North Dakotans. More enlightened legislators should shut them down by passing the early childhood education bill.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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