Many programs at Lane Community College are facing elimination or budget cuts this coming fiscal year, but one program currently proposed to be eliminated will also affect members of the community, students and staff.
The Early Childhood Education Center is one of the programs that not only serves student teachers and faculty but also hundreds of children who attend the ECE and the day care center year after year. Many of whom’s parents go to school just across the yard.
Currently the ECE is costing Lane $371,910 per year. This is the second highest expense for a single program on the proposed chopping block, coming in second to counseling which currently costs Lane almost $3 million a year.
According to student teachers and staff involved in the program, early childhood education is often overlooked in higher education.
Kathleen Lloyd, ECE Co-Op coordinator and instructor is greatly concerned with the programs elimination because of the multitude of effects it may have on the college and community members involved in early childhood education. She stressed the importance of lab schools that ECE offers.
“The academic program here is really strong in terms of childhood development, positive guidance and curriculum. We have so many great academic opportunities for students, but then students get to practice in the lab school and that’s unique. There are other community colleges that have early childhood education programs but they don’t have lab schools,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd emphasized that the most important thing about the lab teachings is the hands on ability for student teachers to interact with children. The combination of students working directly with kids coached by instructors enriches the learning experience for student teachers. Lloyd also explained that this teaching style makes it easier for the instructors to assess and adjust curriculum to fit the needs of the currently enrolled children.
In terms of the curriculum and teaching styles Lloyd explained that the most important thing for students is to learn how to test their tolerance with children. Since most of the kids are not old enough to understand why a certain instruction is needed, often times extra engagement is required that is tailored towards focusing in on the child’s intellect.
“In order to be able to work with children, you have to have your patience tested. You have to learn how to not react but rather you have to learn how to respond and practice those skills,” Lloyd said. “You do that through engaging their intellect and their interest because children only misbehave when they are bored.”
Lane’s ECE has a variety of classrooms and outdoor play areas that are used daily to teach young children in a playful and strategic way. Two of the classrooms have one-way mirrors and audio listening so student teachers and parents can observe children reacting to the environments they have been placed in. Lloyd explained that these aspects of the program offer an outside observatory perspective for student teachers in combination with a hands on one. The school has also provided an art room with paint, crayons, colored pencils and other art supplies for children to express their thoughts through color and paper.
A few student teachers shared their perspective on the program as well, elaborating on what the most enriching part of the program is for them and why they are concerned about how the fate of the ECE is hanging in the balance.
“The whole community is going to suffer, I feel like my identity has been slashed to the core with this recommendation, but it’s not really a personal attack on me as much as it is on the community because these children are our future,” Corey Coffield, a second year ECE student, said. “We don’t have anyone else to invest in the future, removing this program would be detrimental to these children.”
Coffield is also greatly concerned about how, without the ECE, many of the children who should have the opportunity to learn from this program will suffer later in their education if the program is eliminated.
“These kids would not be ready for kindergarten or elementary school and even high school,” Coffield said.
Lane student, Nikola Forschner, is working through the program focusing in speech therapy. She shared similar concerns with Coffield. If the program is cut instead of eliminated all together there will still be negative consequences for the program.
“Teachers have said that there will still be classes and it will be possible for us to graduate but it won’t be the same. I don’t want to just take the classes that I need to graduate. I want to learn everything possible that I can about the children and their parents and the community,” Forschner said.
No decisions have been made regarding the fate of early childhood education at Lane, however the board will have to come to a conclusion by the first of June on whether or not to eliminate or cut the program.