At the end of last month while most of the members of the division were going about their regular business, A&F employee Nicole Vasanth was visiting Washington, D.C. But this was no ordinary visit to our nation’s capital. Vasanth, the lead teacher of the three’s class at the University Child Care Center and alumni of TU’s graduate program in education, was there to speak with politicians about education policies.
On February 28 and 29 she attended a public policy forum as a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), representing both the state of Maryland and Towson University. At the forum there were NAEYC members from every state in the country, including Vasanth and the other Maryland representatives.
The first day of the trip was filled with forums and speakers discussing the legislature affecting education across the United States. Several prominent guest speakers were in attendance to speak to Vasanth and other attendees. Administrators in the Head Start program, a national program which provides educational programming for preschoolers from economically disadvantaged homes, spoke as well as President Obama’s educational advisor, Roberto Rodriguez.
All of the speakers and discussions were preparing the NAEYC members for the next part of their visit: a trip to Congress. The following day Vasanth and the other representatives from Maryland met with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator Benjamin Cardin’s staff. Important issues such as the Race to the Top program and the national education budget were discussed.
Race to the Top is an a national incentive program in which states compete against each other with their test scores and education programs for government grants. Maryland was recently awarded a grant as a top performing state. While the money can go towards early childhood educational programs it cannot be used to fund individual children through childcare subsidies. Currently, about 1,500 families in Maryland are on a wait list to receive federal help because they unable to afford child care.
“It really made me think about those moms and dads who can’t continue their education, maybe here at Towson, without programs that receive funds from the federal government,” Vasanth said.
This is why Vasanth and other NAEYC were stressing to the Senators’ office how important it is to ensure that all of the $825 million budgeted for education goes to education. With the current proposed budget Head Start and other voucher programs will be maintained for another year. There is no room to expand programs, but at least there will not be any cuts made.
Although it was Nicole Vasanth’s first trip to D.C. with NAEYC, it surely won’t be the last. As long as there are children, there will be educators advocating and fighting for their rights. Thankfully, the University has employees and graduates that know just how important it is!
For more information on the National Association for the Education of Young Children and their mission, visit http://www.naeyc.org/policy/excellence.