Connecting the dots
Apr/May 2008 - MEA-MFT member and Head Start teacher Karen Giuliani starred in the February 2008 American Teacher, publication of the American Federation of Teachers.
The feature article, "Early Childhood Education," talks about the proven effectiveness of strong preschool programs such as Head Start.
"But knowledge does not always translate into support-a point that was forcefully driven home to Missoula, Mont., Head Start teacher Karen Giuliani not long ago," writes author Mike Rose.
The article goes on to say that when Habitat for Humanity undertook a project in Missoula last year, four of Giuliani's co-workers qualified for free homes. "We're low income," she said.
Inadequate funding and rising costs have forced Head Start centers like Guiliani's to make tragic choices. Last year, the Missoula Head Start center had to cut four teaching positions and two classes. Giuliani, who is also president of her MEA-MFT local affiliate, the Greater Missoula Federation of Early Childhood Educators, said, "We're in the trenches and see how important the work we do is. I have a B.A. in elementary education, and I'm working for a third of what I'd make (in a traditional classroom setting).
"In general, in our country, early childhood education hasn't been of much importance. We have to connect the dots."
Making headway: The article continues, "In Montana, bargaining has helped Head Start professionals deal with budget shocks in the workplace, and unions have been pivotal in helping the frontline have a persuasive voice thousands of miles away, successfully encouraging Congress to pass a landmark Head Start reauthorization bill. The union also has worked for professional growth among Head Start educators."
"MEA-MFT is dedicated to improving pay and working conditions for our Head Start members," said MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver. The work they do is essential."
Feaver noted that delegates to MEA-MFT's 2008 Representative Assembly recently voted to add "state funding for Head Start" to MEA-MFT's legislative agenda. Stay tuned.
(AFT article excerpts reprinted by permission.)
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