Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Raising Kids: We Must Work Together

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opinion Roundup; Raising Kids: We Must Work Together

Article excerpt

Education can't be limited to the school walls.

It begins and ends at home, not school.

If a child doesn't come to school prepared to learn, school can't catch up.

If a child doesn't return home to a good dinner and supportive family life, don't count on getting much homework done

The FCAT? That is not the first priority for a child who has a parent in prison or who has been abandoned by irresponsible parents or who is trying to avoid a mother and an abusive boyfriend.

This is a reality in many of our low-income neighborhoods.

Parents do care. All too often there is a single mom working two jobs. When she's home, she is exhausted. Or the children may be raised by grandparents. Any supportive adult in a child's life is a big plus.

A child needs somebody to tell him that they believe in him, that's it's worth studying hard in school because you can make something of yourself, that college is available and affordable.

Tell that to a parent who was disappointed at every turn in school and who does not know exactly how to inspire and motivate a child. Too often children receive only the tough part of tough love.

But there are many parents and caregivers who want to do the right thing, they just weren't taught themselves.

It's for them that Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Duval County public schools, wants to start a Parents Academy. He did something similar while in the Miami-Dade school system. Parent College in the Harlem Children's Zone has also received notice.

"Middle-class values" that many people take for granted are not always commonplace in low-income neighborhoods.

Reading to your children when they're young, for instance, then inviting them to read to you as they get older. Taking them on field trips. Eating dinner together and having discussions around the table. Being treated as not equal to the parent but a vital part of the family. These are values that build self-esteem and lead to resilience. Some children seem to develop it innately but most need some firm but gentle direction.

As Jacksonville focuses on an education summit this week, the city needs to move beyond the walls of its public schools. We must become a community that fosters the values of high quality rearing of its children.

How will the Parent Academy be funded? Certainly the school district has a stake as do the community's philanthropists.

But city government should get involved, too, and at the funding level. It is an outrage that JEA, the city's public utility, does not contribute a cent to the public schools. If JEA were a private utility, it would be sending millions into the school coffers.

So here is a public goal that deserves some of that public funding - the Parent Academy.

It will not only benefit the schools, but the city as a whole. …

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