Open to all parents: Experts to discuss future of Georgia’s Pre-K

Georgia’s lottery-funded pre-k program is turning 20 this year and parents are invited to a panel discussion of whether the investment in early childhood education has paid off, who should have access to free pre-k and what a successful pre-k classroom looks like. All parents and teachers are welcome. The event is free.

The event will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Midtown. It is sponsored by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and PNC Bank.

Panelists are: Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop; Bobby Cagle, Commissioner of Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning; Regina Bowie, pre-kindergarten teacher at Woodland Elementary School in Fulton County; Dr. Gary Henry, Patricia and H. Rodes Hart Distinguished Professor of Public and Higher Education Policy, Department of Leadership, Policy and Organization, Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.

Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will moderate. Attendance is free and open to the public. To inquire about available seats, visit ajc.com/go/ajcpncforum.

The forum will be broadcast on GPB on Monday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 12:30 p.m.

Parents what do you think: Do you think the lottery funded pre-K is a good program? Did your kids go through it? What are your thoughts on the program? If you are from another state, how is your pre-K handled?

41 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

October 23rd, 2012
12:19 am

Not across the board. No my kids did not attend. The programs that are attached to an elementary school are typically better than the ones in isolation. I see lots of different Pre-K programs and that is a question with a long answer.

The NAEYC is holding it’s annual conference in Atlanta this year. I am speaking at it again. This is a GREAT opportunity to hear reputable speakers from around the world on current educational trends. Let’s see how many teachers from GA PreK will be attending. Probably less than 20% What does this say? Ask your teachers if they even know about it…many do not. The training regulations mandated by Bright from the Start, our local agency, are not all policies that provide the best quality training of our Pre-K teachers. IMHO. I have tried to voice my opinion but no one will listen. I would love to be in contact with someone who is interested.

Lurkinator

October 23rd, 2012
8:13 am

I think we need the Pre-K program – it’s the only exposure to a real learning environment that some children will get before being sent off to Kindergarten, and it’s VERY easy to tell who’s been to Pre-K and who hasn’t; kids without a Pre-K experience lag behind their peers both socially and scholarly.

My oldest went thru the GA Pre-K program and we worked with her at home as well, because the teacher was not even allowed to display the alphabet in class. My second will start in Fall 2013, and I’ve been considering a private Pre-K, but I’m not sure if we can afford it.

PLEASE give education more funding and more leeway for the teachers to actually *teach* – from Pre-K to high school!

Whirled Peas

October 23rd, 2012
8:42 am

Why is it “open to all parents”? Why is it only open to parents? Why is it not open to all who pay taxes and all who play the lottery? Theresa, this money could be used for a lot of things besides free babysitting. It is about time we stood up to bullying from people like Theresa. These people have their hands around some of the lottery money and they protect it like it is their own. It is time we the people stood up to Theresa and her buddies. Power to the people!

yuki

October 23rd, 2012
8:50 am

@Whirled Peas….what in the world are you talking about?

My son is in GA Pre-K right now. Not sure about the not being able to display the alphabet in class, but I’m pretty sure its allowed in his class. He is learning a lot, and I think he is getting a lot out of it. I’m very happy so far with the program and he seems to enjoy it. It’s not “free babysitting”. People who say this don’t have a clue.

I’m sure the topic will come up how it should only be available to lower income families, but I disagree. Why shouldn’t my son benefit from lottery money? Peolple choose to play the lottery, they aren’t forced. He is in a preschool that also offers private pre-k, but we chose to do the GA Pre K, and we are happy with our decision.

Whirled Peas

October 23rd, 2012
9:16 am

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Pre-K is tax payer paid baby sitting. Studies have shown that by the 6th grade there is no difference between the academic achievements of those with and without pre-K. Yes, there are studies that show the opposite, but they were commissioned by people with an agenda and I don’t trust them. Pre-K is popular because it frees up mom’s to get back into the work force. I won’t say it does not have its good points, but I am saying there is very much another side to this story and you won’t get that side from Theresa or the AJC.

Mayhem

October 23rd, 2012
9:26 am

Pre-K is supported by the lottery. It’s one of the basis for lottery money. That and the HOPE. My daughter was one of the first classes of Pre-K here in Georgia.

At that time, it did not cost me anything, other than “after school” care. The lottery pays $95.00 per child in pre-K to the facility. NOW, the parents have to pay for pre-K, and the facitility is STILL getting $95 per child, on top of what the parents are paying. They say its for meals. However, you are not allowed to pack a lunch for your child while they are at the facility. The are FORCED to eat what the facility provides for meals.

So, they are double dipping, and getting close to $200 per child who attends Pre-K.

And there are NO studies that pre-K kids are smarter, socially, or physically better by going to pre-K. Both my nieces did not attend Pre-K, and both are in college now, with A’s & B’s average……

It’s not mandatory, and it’s certainly NOT free babysitting.

A

October 23rd, 2012
9:32 am

We never did GA Pre-K (we were fortunate enough to be able to send our child to Montessori, including for kindergarten) so just curious why they wouldn’t be able to display the alphabet?

jarvis

October 23rd, 2012
9:36 am

@Whirled Peas, where are you seeing Theresa’s opinion on the matter at all?

By the way, it’s a panel discussion….not an open town hall. “Attendance is open to the Public”, or you can watch it on TV. Either way, the people on stage will be the ones doing all of the talking.

Your reading comprehension needs a little work.

JOD

October 23rd, 2012
9:38 am

We are paying for private pre-K, and I can certainly echo Mayhem’s points on the GA pre-K cost. It is not free (at least not at our school). At the end of the day, the difference in cost is around $45 a month. In comparing the curricula, the private program is vastly superior and the cost difference is negligible. We decided to keep paying through the nose for one more year to keep DD’s education progressing as she is accustomed to learning. I am not a fan of mainly ’self-directed learning’ in a school setting. How can you rely on a 4-year-old to ask knowledge-furthering questions? That being said, I’m not a teacher.

That being said, I certainly agree that GA pre-K is invaluable for those students who have not been om a school setting previously and for those who cannot (or don’t want to) pay for private. Kindergarten (as I understand it), is more like 1st grade used to be, with high expectations of 5 year olds. Shouldn’t they be as prepared as they can be?

JOD

October 23rd, 2012
9:43 am

Sorry! *In” a school setting. Heading for the caffeine…

yuki

October 23rd, 2012
9:47 am

@JOD, not sure where your school is, but the difference in private and GA Pre-K is a lot more than $45/month. It’s hundreds. Not to mention we have another child in daycare so, we chose to go the GA Pre-K route and save more for college for our kids. We figure in the long run, we would rather have the college money. I know in the private class the teacher has the freedom to teach whatever she wants (ie more) and the schedule is more flexible. In GA Pre-K they follow the county schedule. But, it works for us and when it all comes down to it, they are FOUR. My son knows his letters and numbers and we work with him at home as well. I never went to Pre K either, and I managed to graduate from college. I’m sure he will be fine!

Me

October 23rd, 2012
9:48 am

I’m not even sure I have an opinion as it really affects me not — Ours were all too old to take part in Pre-K but, as to the notion that those sans pre-K lag behind others is, in my opinion, a bogus statistic as it applied to ours. Such a comment may have merit in today’s world but I honestly don’t think it need be. Personally, I had rather see lottery funds go to fund the HOPE and do away with Pre-K unless fully funded by the parents. I don’t understand how Pre-K is beneficial for those “who have not been in a school setting previously” — What is the real difference between seeing a school setting for the first time; be it Pre-K or Kindergarten? I would think, to the kids, this to be an almost equal level of stress…

yuki

October 23rd, 2012
9:48 am

* I meant the difference at “our” school

redandblack

October 23rd, 2012
9:53 am

I am really taken back by those who say Georiga pre-k teachers are not allowed to display the alphabet. That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. What are they learning if not their letters and numbers???

We did private pre-k and kindergarten thru the church and had amazing experience both educationally and personally. My son is currently in a private church pre-k program in Sounth Forsyth county and is WAY past the letters of the alphabet. He is doing phonics, sight words, and reading short sentences. I had no idea Georigia Pre-k was that bad. Now feeling very grateful we decided not to go that route!!

jarvis

October 23rd, 2012
9:58 am

@JOD, Wow. We paid $90 a month last year for our son’s pre-K “food”. That was in comparison to the $150 per week I was paying for his pre-school at the same facility the year before. It was a difference of $500 per month.

We were very pleased with what he got from the public program. He left knowing his alphabet, could write his name, and he could spout out his address and all of our phone numbers (home and our cells).

redandblack

October 23rd, 2012
10:00 am

@Me — I do not think pre-k is necessary **IF** parents are teaching them at home. But we all that that too many are not doing this. In today’s kindergarten, kids are learning to read and write in paragraph form so they NEED to know their letters and letter sounds BEFORE kindergarten. So in that sense, I do think it’s necessary and worth the money.

jarvis

October 23rd, 2012
10:03 am

My wife is a public K teacher. She said she’s never heard of a Pre-K (state or otherwise) that didn’t teach the alphabet.

redandblack

October 23rd, 2012
10:14 am

@jarvis — did you know that the local churches have excellent pre-k programs for a fraction of the cost. Most church pre-k programs run anywhere from $225-300 **per month** as opposed to $150 per week or even $90 per week for considerably smaller class sizes and more individual attention. They are half day programs though. But what they do in half a day, with smaller class sizes, far outweighs what daycares do in a full day.

We recently moved to Forsyth county and as a result missed registration deadline for Georgia Pre-k. When I called a highly recommended daycare, they quoted me $180 **Per Week** for their private pre-k.

Luckily, I got in at a local church for far less than half that per month. And I know for a fact that the church is considerably ahead acedemically than the daycare pre-k (private or state funded).

Mayhem

October 23rd, 2012
10:35 am

All my kids knew their alphabet, numbers, how to spell their first and last names, our address and home telephone number (vefore cells) BEFORE they entered pre-K.

It’s called parenting.

donna

October 23rd, 2012
10:47 am

Mayhem, are you Augusta in cognito? I swear you sound just like her in your post. Very self absorbed and perfect.

jarvis

October 23rd, 2012
11:12 am

@Mayhem, my ass they did.

Cobb Mom

October 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

My daughter was in Georgia Pre-K last year. The program was WONDERFUL. As for the person who posted that this is like free babysitting, I must beg to differ. The teaching was top notch and extremely valuable. It makes a big difference in the lives of underprivileged kids who wouldn’t normally be prepared for kindergarten.

PS

October 23rd, 2012
11:36 am

My kids are in private pre-K, as their day care does not offer the GA Pre-K option and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of uprooting them from where they’ve been since they were 18 months old in order to find a place that had Georgia Pre-K. It’s expensive, but I think it’s worth it. My girls have been reading since they were 3, so whatever the private Pre-K is doing, I’m in no position to complain.

That said, I know many friends who have sent their kids to the Georgia Pre-K program and have had fantastic results. I’ll have to admit the difference in cost was tempting when considering it for my own kids, but again, in the end, I didn’t feel like going through the effort of uprooting the kids from a place I know is doing good work for them.

Mayhem

October 23rd, 2012
11:37 am

Who is Augusta?

Jarvis – they did. Whether you believe it or not, all 3 knew all that before they started school. Repetition….kids pick up on stuff and if you reinforce it over and over and over, they get it. I was a stay at home mom until the youngest was in Kindergarten. I worked with my kids, and prepared them. Sesame Street helped a bit too….

jarvis

October 23rd, 2012
11:43 am

@Mayhem, I was messing with you.

Augusta was this woman on here that told everyone they were raising their kids wrong. She had a house-fulll-sized litter, and she finally quit blogging on here one day when people told her that there isn’t “one best way” to raise kids. She took that as a personal afront because she WAS raising her kids the only best way.

You remind me nothing of her.

camille

October 23rd, 2012
11:48 am

@ JOD.. i agree with you. We continued to pay for private pre-K vs. GA pre-K because we worked. If you don’t work outside of the home and can pick the child up at 2:30, then GA pre-K is cheaper (only paying $90/mopnth for food).

However, $90 for food adn $65/week for after school care + approx. $30 for the drop off rate (for 1/2 days, school closed days, etc), it was worth the cost of paying for the private pre-K and not have to worry.

In addition, the pre-K teacher told me that there are some limitations as to what they can teach the 4yo vs. the private pre-K. It was the best choice for us at that time.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2012
12:20 pm

Whirled Peas — I didn’t actually use the Pre-K program. My kids were in a part-time private church program so not sure why I am getting yelled at. I expressed no opinion on the matter. I am letting you guys know there will be a forum to discuss the program.

AZ is barely funding K out here. We had to wait last year to find out if L. would have full-time K or just part-time K provided by the state. There was an uproar and they ended up funding the full-time K. There are odd restrictions on the K about what we are allowed to help them with — for example in writer’s workshop in the first quarter we could sound words out for them for but weren’t supposed to tell them the letters or correct their spellings. Now in the second quarter we are no longer allowed to sound it out for them. We just have to keep repeating “what sound are you hearing?” I asked the teacher why we weren’t allowed to tell them the right spelling on words and she said that’s for first grade. So apparently they get to learn how to spell in first. Oh my!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2012
12:21 pm

MJG — thoughts on that?? other teachers?? How does Ga handle that in K??

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 23rd, 2012
12:25 pm

I believe a second blog on election is popping up soon

Mayhem

October 23rd, 2012
12:46 pm

Thank you Jarvis. I didn’t know who Augusta was. I haven’t been here very long…..

Techmom

October 23rd, 2012
12:48 pm

My son attended a whopping 4 weeks of the state funded pre-k program in Ga at his daycare facility before I pulled him out. I ran into the same cost issues (keep in mind he is now 17 so this was 12 years ago) but basically 3K was $85 per week and then when he got to K4, the hours were 9-2:30 and didn’t include lunch so suddenly I paying $20 for before care, $30 for aftercare and $25 for lunch so I was only paying $10 less per week! I knew the daycare was making more than that off the state. Between that and the “child centered learning” curriculum, I didn’t think it was worth it. I pulled him out and put him a local preK at a church that used ABeka (which I still credit for his reading ability) for almost the same amount of money; after school included. I had to buy uniforms and pay a book fee but that was totally worth it.

I have heard great things about the Pre-K programs that exist at actual elementary schools with certified teachers. BUT I cannot endorse the programs run through daycares with teachers who have very little training.

JOD

October 23rd, 2012
1:04 pm

@camille and Techmom – Exactly. I certainly don’t enjoy making a Land Rover payment each month for pre-K, but the alternative didn’t make sense. We were told (again, only speaking for our school), that GA pre-K teachers are not able to extend beyond the GA curriculum unless the children asked questions. Also, if a child wants to stay at the center with blocks all day, that is acceptable in GA pre-K.

Techmom

October 23rd, 2012
1:42 pm

@JOD – his teacher told me they could not do things like have a piece of paper with letters and numbers for them to trace so they could start learning to write the alphabet but rather they could only give out blank sheets of paper. I get “hands on” learning and think it has a place in the classroom but kids have to learn to read and write so why not start early? I think the Pre-K program could be successful but some of these rules are prevent it from being so.

JOD

October 23rd, 2012
1:54 pm

@Techmom – Very interesting. DD’s class is very writing intensive, letters and numbers. They do worksheets to help with both writing and visual recognition, and this is the bulk of the homework that we do. The majority of the kids in this program typically end up reading independently a little by ‘graduation.’

Denise

October 23rd, 2012
3:10 pm

Is Pre-K not free because of funding? I’m asking because 1. I’m not a parent and 2. it doesn’t make sense that Pre-K is not just a part of school like K. In LA my niece is in Pre-K. She had to test into the school she is in but had she not made it in that school there was another school for her to attend. Neither costs. I do think there are some that cost but they are not private. I don’t understand the difference in the public schools (unless one is just a better school that you have to be “smarter” to get in.) Maybe there is a lottery system for getting into Pre-K and if you pay you are more likely to get your kid in….? I think I heard that too. It’s all confusing to me.

And I do believe pre-school and Pre-K are making a big difference in her. She is a lot more outgoing and friendly and she is learning a lot and very quickly.

Techmom

October 23rd, 2012
3:30 pm

@Denise – the state/lottery funded Pre-K program in GA pays for Pre-K in both public and private institutions. There are not enough public institutions with room for Pre-K classrooms so many daycares in GA offer the state-funded Pre-K program under the rules and guidance of the state. The program does not require certified teachers in the private institutions, only minimal training, and the facilities must adhere to the curriculum approved by the state which is commonly referred to as “child-centered learning”.

Most of these daycares continue to operate what they call “private” Pre-K which is not under the restrictions of the state and can use whatever curriculum they want.

Denise

October 23rd, 2012
5:09 pm

@Techmom – thank you for the explanation. That makes sense. I didn’t think about facility space. My friend had her daughter at pre-K where she went to daycare and, of course, she paid. I didn’t realize the lottery funds may contribute to Primrose’s pre-K too. She came out reading and writing very well. Because she went to school “early” because of her late birthday she will be repeating kindergarten in public school (she is still at Primrose). I hope she isn’t bored.

motherjanegoose

October 23rd, 2012
11:16 pm

Bust few days in NM. I have worked in all sorts of PreK and Kinder classrooms, locally and nationally.

Mine went to private Pre-K. There are VERY few GA Lottery Pre-K programs that I would recommend. I work in a few in the metro area. Both are excellent. I work in several in Fl and I think their programs are good! I have been to 7 Primrose sights in the Phoenix area and was impressed with every one. I am curious that most Ga Lottery PreK Teachers know nothing about the NAEYC conference that is coming to ATL in a few weeks. This is a national venue and filled with speakers who know their stuff…um yes I have been invited to speak. I have been invited at least 10 times and am scheduled in a room for 700. Yet, Bright From the Start does not invite me to share presentations through their agency unless I jump through all sorts of hoops…which I am not willing to do. Instead, other states fly me out to train their teachers.

TWG, I am friends with a retired Kinder teacher from PHX who now lives in Newnan. I will check with her when I am home long enough to catch my breath.

MelanieL

October 24th, 2012
10:16 am

My son, who is now in an APS for kindergarten, did GA pre-k last year, which happened to be housed in another APS. That was one of the main reasons that we chose that route for him rather than to keep him in his private preschool for his pre-K year; so he could be “socialized” into a “real” elementary school and be exposed to kids from all different backgrounds. We adored the actual school and I can’t say enough about his pre-K teacher. She had a challenging bunch of kids, some of which had some serious and very sad issues at home, but she met EACH child where he was, and helped him rise to even better, including my son. I think that is key with GA pre-K, that some folks have commented on: many of these children would have very little food, encouragement, love and learning were it not for this program. My boy made such an easy transition to kindergarten, and I am forever grateful to the GA pre-K program for helping with that transition. I do hope that the program stays funded and that it improves across the board because YES, there ARE problems with it. Thankfully, we did not experience any of the problems. I hope GA pre-K is still around when my little guy, now almost 3, is ready.

BaBaBinx

October 24th, 2012
1:03 pm

A lot of people post about GA PreK and obviously haven’t had a child participate in it. My son is currently in a lottery funded GA-PreK program that is onsite at his daycare. His daycare is a NAEYC accredited center and he’s been there since 6 months of age. Therefore he has an excellent GA PreK teacher and the class assistant is great as well. He actually began learning the alphabet and writing his name in the 3K room. The GA PreK classroom is now merely supporting and reinforcing what they had already learned in the previously (handwriting, a letter of the week, etc).

Whirled Peas, in no way is it state paid babysitting. Wouldn’t regular school then be considered state paid babysitting as well? That makes no sense.

I personally think GA PreK isn’t that easy. The rules are stringent and he already has work to do in the evenings. It’s actually pretty darn easy to get kicked out of the program (unexcused tardies, absences, etc). Every week is a new activitiy we have to work on at night, words to learn for the letter of the week, etc. Regardless of whether he is ahead of others in 10 years really doesn’t matter to me. He’s in an excellent environment during the day where he is having fun and learning new things. And quite frankly, his Ga PreK and after care teacher tell him about things I can’t eloquently speak on! Some of the things he’ll come home and chatter about are hilarious!

motherjanegoose

October 24th, 2012
4:51 pm

Being attached to a Public School or being accredited by the NAEYC increases the odds of the GA PreK sites being good. IMHO. There are 253 NAEYC accredited programs in the state of GA. Not sure how many GA PreK programs there are in the state. Not all of the programs in the NAEYC list are GA PreK . There are over 120 sites in Gwinnett County alone and that is ONE county. Some on the NAEYC list are also private. I have been in some wonderful private programs that I would highly recommend! They are not accredited nor attached to a school. Not all preschool children need a full day with 5 days each week. I am visiting NAEYC accredited sites here in NM today and tomorrow. Fun! Check the NAEYC web site to see which sites are accredited! To me, the best way to tell if the facility is good: HOW LONG HAS THE AVERAGE TEACHER BEEN HERE. If you have teachers that stick around 10 years or more…that is a good indicator of what is happening.