EarlyStories has been keeping a close eye on coverage of the stimulus package these days. There’s no shortage of news to follow; for example, Head Start and Early Head Start centers will soon get some of the $2.2 billion in promised funding to expand their services.
Yet in Alaska, one of just 11 states with no publicly funded pre-kindergarten, Republican Gov. Sarah Palin is poised to reject almost half of the federal stimulus money available. And this week, the once vice-presidential candidate got some unwanted attention about an early story of a different kind when Palin’s teenage daughter’s ex-boyfriend boasted that the governor likely knew the teenage couple — who have a baby — were sleeping together. The interview — to be aired on Monday — came during an appearance on the Tyra Banks Show, not usually a source for EarlyStories.
Just last month, Bristol Palin told Fox News the abstinence preached by her mother “is not realistic at all,” and said she wished she had waited 10 years before having a child.
So why bring all this up, when the presidential election is long over? For this reason: Alaska’s educators and advocacy community are pushing hard at the moment for the state to improve its early childhood offerings, and some were hoping that stimulus money might be used.
Alaska superintendents are lobbying legislators to reverse her decision to reject $172 million for Alaska’s schools. Much of the money was designated for poor schools and children with special needs. Some educators had also hoped it would be used to expand pre-kindergarten offerings for low-income children in Anchorage, along with those with special needs.
Palin — who called education “near and dear to my heart,” while on the stump with Sen. John McCain – did not attend a summit meeting in Alaska last November on early childhood education, and her budget proposal this year called for only a state-funded pilot program to serve some 500 pre-kindergarten children, nothing more. Alaska has also fared poorly in the way it pays teachers.
Palin also exposed a bit of hypocrisy when did not hold back her criticism of President Barack Obama for his gaffe in “Tonight with Jay Leno,’. Palin, the mother of a special needs baby who once pledged to look out for special needs children, let it be know that was “shocked,” by what she termed his “…degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people.”
For the record, Obama compared his bowling score of 120 with being “like Special Olympics,” and quickly apologized.
Both Democrats and Republicans have disagreed with her decision to turn down stimulus money in tough economic times, as have many Alaskans.
Some supporters have said they admire Palin’s courage in turning down money they fear could expand government. It will be interesting to keep an eye on what happens to Alaska’s education budget and to any of its limited pre-kindergarten programs as the stimulus story continues to unfold. Journalists should pay close attention, even as the more sensational story of Palin’s unmarried daughter, ex-boyfriend and illegitimate grandchild grab the spotlight.