I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
They’re Uncle Sam’s kids now — he paid for them
When the news came that Santa Fe’s public schools would get some of the federal stimulus bounty being handed out by a benevolent Democratic Congress and president, few suspected that some of that federal pork would turn rancid.
One of the things the school district did with the federal largesse was to fund an after-school program at seven Santa Fe schools, including E.J. Martinez elementary. First, grateful parents felt the soothing touch of Uncle Sam’s velvet glove. Only when it was too late did they feel the iron fist inside:
Parents of students who registered for the after-school program at E.J. Martinez Elementary School were told last week that they would not be allowed to pick up their children until 5:30 p.m., even if they themselves get off work earlier than that.
The only parents who put their children in after-school are working parents, and many of those parents — both mothers and fathers — wish they didn’t have to.
Many of them would love to be able to pick their kids up at 3 p.m. and spend a few relaxing hours with them instead of getting off work, rushing to pick up the kids at 5:30 p.m., then either stop for take-out on the way home or trying to fix something nutritious and quick at home, maybe rushing to a sports practice and back, and trying to get the kids to finish their homework before putting them to bed, setting the alarm clock, falling into bed and starting the whole damn thing all over again the next day.
They would love to pick their kids up early, but they can’t. Most of the time, it’s because they have to work until 5 p.m. But once in a while, they can take a day off, or a half day. And on those days, the school district now tells them, they still have to wait until 5:30 p.m. to pick up their kids. The parents, needless to say, are not happy, according to a story in the Santa Fe New Mexican:
“It’s asinine to say if I can pick my kids up earlier than 5:30 p.m., I get penalized. That’s nuts,” said Valerie Ingram, whose children are enrolled in the school’s after-care program. “I’ll see them for maybe two hours before they go to sleep.”
I know one of the children in the E.J. Martinez after-school program. His parents are divorced, and both work. His father’s schedule allows him many afternoons free, and he likes to spend those with his son. But since the government school edict came out, he is now forbidden to spend those few precious hours with his son.
When he broke the rules and picked his son up anyway, his ex-wife filed papers with family court to stop him, since she was afraid of her son’s losing his place in the after-school program. The little boy, needless to say, would rather spend afternoons with his father.
The story reminds me of something I saw three years ago when my daughter was in kindergarten. Every day when school ended, the kindergarten class would line up with their teacher as we parents came to pick up our children. When the last parent and child had departed, the teacher would return the remaining children to the aftercare room, where they would stay until their parents picked them up.
One day when I picked up my daughter, one of her classmates rushed up to me, more excited than I’d ever seen her.
“My auntie’s picking me up today!” she cried. “I get to leave when everybody else does!” Her face positively glowed, and my heart felt as though it would break, for I knew this girl was the child of a young, single mother who worked and that she had to stay in aftercare every day.
But not that day. That day, she would be like the other boys and girls who were lucky enough to have stay-at-home moms. That day, she would have the love and attention of her auntie instead of yet another day in the institutional setting of school aftercare.
That little girl was the first thing I thought of as I read the story in the paper the other day. I was incredulous. Why would the school do this? Why would they deny those children a few hours with relatives who loved them and wanted to spend time with them? Because the federal government says so, that’s why:
Because the district is funding the after-care program at E.J. — and six other schools — with federal stimulus dollars, it is required to offer 90 minutes of uninterrupted academic instruction.
Instead of arts and crafts, the occasional movie and other low-key fun, students will be getting another set of lessons in math and English at the end of the day.
So those poor kids, tired from being in school for seven hours already, have to sit there for another hour and a half of lessons, then go home and do their homework?
I suppose some federal bureaucrat read some study somewhere that said those additional 90 minutes would make the difference between Harvard and Sing-Sing for some of those kids. I know the bureaucrats have only the best of intentions, and really do think they know better than exhausted working parents who would like to have a few extra hours with their children when their work schedules permit.
It’s this kind of elitist, do-gooder mentality that makes us conservatives wary of governmental encroachment into private life. I’m sure the folks at Arne Duncan’s U.S. Department of Education have our best interests at heart, just as all the other secretaries and czars and congressmen do. I’m sure they really think they can provide us a better health care system than the free market can. I’m sure they really think President Obama needs to have emergency control over the internet and that they are positive that power would never, ever be abused for the sake of partisan politics.
Personally, I’d like to see the parents from E.J. Martinez stage a sit-in at the federal building to protest the fascistic usurpation of parental rights by the Department of Education. But they won’t.
Some of them won’t because they’re afraid to rock the boat, afraid they might lose their spot in aftercare and they really can’t do without it. Some of them won’t because they’re too busy and too tired from trying to juggle the demands of raising kids and earning a living. Some of them won’t because they just don’t give a damn.
That’s exactly why the government can get away with this kind of strong-arm behavior. Some bureaucrat someplace has probably done a study with all sorts of computer modeling that tells how likely people are to complain about things like this.
And anyway, it’s for our own good, right?
It’s for the children.