The History and Current Practices in Federal Policy that Affect Early Childhood Education
The federal government has been supporting early childhood education and care for poor children since 1935. Their main objective is to give the children a fair opportunity so that they could succeed and support their healthy development (Haskins, 2016).
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The history of introducing federal policies concerning early childhood education began in the nineteenth century when the federal government’s first attempt to improve poor children’s welfare took place. Since that time America has introduced many policies including orphanages care, child care, pre-K, Head Start, and others aimed at the development of early childhood education. However, these policies turned out to be inefficient (Sharp, 2016).
Currently, there are three main federal funding streams created to improve early childhood education: Head Start, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). Thus, in 1935, Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) introduced the Social Security Act aimed at promoting healthy development for children by allowing poor or widowed women to raise their children at home. However, in the course of time, policy and public focus gradually shifted from children’s welfare to adults’ self-sufficiency and their financial state. Thus, the Social Security Act has transformed into CCDF and TANF which are aimed at promoting work for mothers outside of their homes (Haskins, 2016).
Additionally, all programs and policies designed for children under five years old are chiefly focused on supporting the work of parents in a 24/7 economy and promoting children’s learning and healthy growth during the most important period in human development (Sharp, 2016).
Since the focus on early education and care was removed, formal education in the public schools became the priority of the federal government regarding the promotion of poor children’s welfare. Thus, today, they bend every effort to the development of the public pre-K (Haskins & Brooks-Gunn, 2016).
The Historical Evolution of Policies that Govern the Separation of Church and State, and How It Affects Schools
Although the concept of the separation of church and state is currently understood, the U.S. government has never passed a law that would officially confirm this separation. The reason for the common understanding of this separation is the reinterpretation of the Constitution. Over the years, the Supreme Court and other lower courts have reinterpreted the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which simply states that Congress will neither respect an establishment of religion nor prohibit its free exercise (Kauper, 2016).
One of the Supreme Court’s violations of the Constitution was the reinterpretation of the Bill of Rights, though, before this violation, it applied only to the federal government. Eventually, after several attempts to limit the power of the federal government, the authority over religious affairs was given to the States. However, in 1925, a decree called Gitlow v. New York was issued. It implied that the Supreme Court started ignoring its precedents explaining that one of the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment presupposed the extension of the Bill of Rights to the States. This decree also presupposed the expansion of the power of the federal courts (Beneke, 2015).
Then, in 1940, a ruling called Cantwell v. Connecticut was issued. Basically, the Supreme Court applied the part about the free exercise of religion to the states. But despite that, religion was still a State matter. Then, in 1947, a ruling called Everson v. Board of Education was issued. This time, the Supreme Court applied the part about the establishment of religion to the states. After that ruling, the process of separation of church and state was complete. Since 1947, the Supreme Court has had authority over religious issues, as a result of the initial reinterpretation of the First Amendment (Beneke, 2015).
Regarding schools and education in general, the “law” of separation of church and state means that students and pupils are allowed to not make a pause for a moment of silence when the school day begins. Another example is that it is allowed to display a nativity scene on public property only if it is accompanied by other more secular displays. One more example is that at a graduation ceremony, prayer is considered unconstitutional. Additionally, this separation is vividly expressed in the removal of crosses and other religious symbols from public properties, government buildings, city seals, and so on (Kauper, 2016).
Beneke, C. (2015). Separation of church and state: Founding principle of religious liberty. Journal of Church and State, 57(4), 786-788.
Haskins, R. (2016). American policy on early childhood education & development: Many programs, great hopes, modest impacts. Behavioral Science & Policy, 2(1), 1-8.
Haskins, R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2016). Trouble in the land of early childhood education? Future of Children, 23(1), 1-8.
Kauper, P. G. (2016). Separation of church and state – A constitutional view. The Catholic Lawyer, 9(1), 4-28.
Sharp, L. K. (2016). Examining the precepts of early childhood education: The basics or the essence? International Journal of the Whole Child, 1(1), 1-14.