A Modest Proposal: Creating "The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Care "
On September 5th The Atlantic published a piece titled “Why Does the School Day End Two Hours Before the Workday? This mismatch creates a child-care crisis between 3 and 5 p.m. that has parents scrambling for options”
This highlights a rarely discussed fact which is that one of public schools’ functions in society is that it provides free child care for children from ages 5 to 16 (18) which we do not have for children from birth to age five. Ironically enough, older students especially those in middle and high school have a much higher capacity to care for themselves than infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Some would argue that K-12 educations primary function is educating students not caring for them. However, educating young children could also be looked at as the primary purpose of nursery and preschool programs and unsupervised teenagers can cause just as much if not more trouble as preschoolers. A variety of research has shown that the most important brain development happens in early childhood so it could be argued birth through five is a more important educational time than the teenage years. Moreover, award winning economists like James Heckman and Arthur Rolnick have found that investment in early childhood education and care programs has more economic benefit than education and interventions for older children.
In Massachusetts, K-12 Education is overseen by The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education while Birth through 5 is overseen by the The Department of Early Education and Care. Since K-12 functions as child care just as much as nursery and preschool, I propose we rename it The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Care