Friday, November 18, 2011

Help save Kiefer's school: The Little Red Schoolhouse

Although I am extremely busy at work, with the kids and my dissertation, I have made time to help save Kiefer's pre-school. It is an amazing program -- Kiefer loves it and so do I. Amherst College, where "Little Red" is located, is kicking the program out of the beautiful brick building that was built in 1937 specifically for the pre-school and has housed it continuously since. A group of parents has formed the "Little Red Schoolhouse Preservation Committee" and we're in the process of helping the staff find a location for the program to continue in coming years. We're also working to make sure the program can keep its endowment, which is critical to keeping Little Red affordable. Amherst College plans to take the endowment and absorb it into their general endowment. I could go on and on, but I won't. Instead, I have copied and pasted the letter the Little Red Schoolhouse Preservation Committee has sent to various media sources.

In the midst of numerous articles and op-ed pieces hailing the importance of early childhood education, we would like to ask why a long-established and successful early childhood program is losing the endowment given in 1940 that was directed towards supporting the Amherst Day School. Effective June 30, 2012, Amherst College will sever all ties with a 75 year old early childhood education program, more commonly known as the Little Red Schoolhouse. An on-campus institution since the late 1930’s, Amherst College is abandoning its stewardship of a longstanding community program; its assets – including an endowment and a vintage schoolhouse building, both of which were specifically designated to sustain this childhood education program – will simply be absorbed by Amherst College in the name of progress.

In a letter written in 1947, Amherst College President Stanley King, clarifies the College’s commitment to the preschool program:

The fact that the school is open to the children of the town as well as to children of the Amherst faculty is a recognition of the fundamental fact that the College is tax-exempt in the town and may wisely therefore make some return to the town. These facts I think should always be borne in mind in considering the Day School in its relation to the College.

For 75 years, the Little Red Schoolhouse program has been an example of Amherst College’s commitment to the local community: accessible and affordable high quality early childhood education in lieu of taxes. Amherst College’s refusal to support the preschool program or assist in the transition off campus contradicts the recognized importance of early childhood education and undermines the College’s commitment to the Amherst community. If the College eliminates endowment funding for this significant program, the community, children, and Amherst College will suffer a tremendous loss.

Little Red Schoolhouse Preservation Committee

You can help by signing the petition! Thanks!

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