Early Years Column

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The National School Boards Association has opposed a bill that would require employers to grant up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for parents to care for newborn, newly adopted, or seriously ill children.

Testifying before the Senate Labor and Human Resources subcommittee on children, families, drugs, and alcoholism last month, the group's president, Johnathan T. Howe, said the "parental and temporary medical leave act of 1987" would be a "serious mistake" for schools.

He said the bill, introduced by the panel's chairman, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, could disrupt classroom continuity by undermining districts' discretion to require that extended leave be structured around the school schedule. It could also impose undue costs on schools and conflict with existing bargained agreements with "more generous" leave policies, he said.

Reagan Administration and National Federation of Independent Business officials also said the bill would subvert the "voluntary" benefits process and be costly to small businesses.

Parents, health professionals, and community groups supported the measure, however, saying it would prevent parents from having to choose between their jobs and their children's well-being.

At the behest of a local citizens' group, a Seattle television station has produced a 15-minute videotape detailing the benefits of early-childhood education.

The video, first aired by the CBS-tv affiliate in Seattle in a two-hour special called "Family Matters," is part of a public- information campaign to garner support and increased funding for comprehensive early-childhood programs. The program chronicles the success of programs such as Head Start through interviews with administrators, parents, and successful graduates and warns of the consequences to society of neglecting disadvantaged youths in their early years.

It can be rented for $5 or purchased for $20 from the Citizens Education Center Northwest, 105 South Main St., Suite 327, Seattle, Wash. 98104.

Fearful that early-childhood programs in urban public schools may be ineffective in nurturing black children, the National Black Child Development Institute has issued a set of recommendations for successful programs. The guidelines stress the importance of parental and community involvement, culturally sensitive staff and curricula, adequate nutrition and health standards, and assessments based on broader criteria than standardized tests.

"Safeguards: Guidelines for Establishing Programs for Four-Year-Olds in the Public Schools" can be obtained for $6 from the institute, 1463 Rhode Island Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005.--dg

Vol. 07, Issue 10

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