Early education
gets some respect


The University of Hawaii has begun a new program that offers a master's degree in early childhood education.

THE UNIVERSITY of Hawaii's new master's degree in early childhood education acknowledges the need to prepare teachers and others in a discipline often overlooked but increasingly recognized as pivotal to a child's educational success. It adds an important component to improving the spectrum of instructional services for those who teach in Hawaii's public and private schools.

From the moment of birth, children begin learning and by the time they start kindergarten, 85 percent of their development has taken place. Children who are not exposed to learning in these years enter the classroom ill prepared and many lag behind throughout their schooling.

The interdisciplinary degree offering has attracted students with a range of interests, including teachers, preschool directors, leaders of community and hospital programs. Notably, 10 of the 31 initial participants are associated with Kamehameha Schools, which two years ago expanded programs for preschool-age children with hopes of helping up to 11,000 either through its own schools or through other accredited institutions.

The program fits well with the "P-20 Initiative," a partnership of the UH, the state Department of Education and the Good Beginning Alliance that focuses on the educational needs of children from preschool through college. Its graduates will augment the ranks of educators and leaders in special education, child and family studies as well as early childhood education.

In addition, the degree is being offered in three-week summer sessions over three years and offers courses online and through the university's outreach program, making it accessible to participants who are working. More than 50 people applied for the program, evidence of the demand for this type of education.

Stephanie Feeney, UH professor and coordinator of the program, said it took nine years to establish the degree. "It's an institutional recognition of the importance of this period between birth and age 5, which gets talked about but doesn't get funded," Feeney said.


Don’t hinder attempts
to privatize government


Congressional conferees have approved a bill that would allow further privatization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

AIR traffic controllers' labor union is sounding an alarm about a bill in Congress that would privatize flight service operations and 69 air traffic control towers. Airport and airline officials favor the privatization, which is planned by the Bush administration. The Air Traffic Controllers Association warns that it would endanger airline passengers, but the main effect on the public will be increased efficiency.

House and Senate conferees have agreed on a bill that would allow the Federal Aviation Administration the flexibility needed to turn over jobs to the private sector where appropriate to achieve cost savings without compromising public safety. President Bush had threatened to veto the FAA authorization bill without that flexibility.

Senator Akaka joined Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., earlier this year in calling for all air traffic control jobs to be exempt from private contracting. The proposal would have kept the FAA from contracting out about 2,000 controllers who work in Flight Service Stations, which don't direct traffic but instead provide briefings to pilots on such matters as weather, special notices and temporary airspace restrictions.

The Lautenberg proposal also would have kept hundreds of employees at 69 relatively small air traffic control towers on the government payroll. None of those towers are in Hawaii, but the 219 mostly small airport towers that already are under private contract include those at the Kalaeloa, Kona-Keahole, Lihue and Molokai airports. Those small operations don't use radar, relying on visual assessments or on larger airports' radar. The union represents about 15,000 radar controllers.

A study conducted two years ago by the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general found that the privately operated towers saved taxpayers an average of $250,000 a year per tower. It added that the towers designated for privatization could bring an annual savings of $881,000 per tower because of a new FAA pay system for government controllers. The study found "little difference in the quality of safety services" between government-run towers and comparable towers operated by private contractors.

A privatization law signed by President Clinton in 1998 required federal agencies to identify positions as commercial in nature or as "inherently governmental." The current administration has identified 850,000 jobs as commercial. Bush has dropped Clinton's designation of all air traffic control jobs as necessarily governmental.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

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