by Tyrone Scott, 2017 OCDEL Policy Fellowship Graduate
I am kind of a weird guy. I realized this when I was about 12 years old, but I have been reminded of this more and more in years months. In a recent meeting I was asked “Why would a 40 something former pro wrestler want to advocate for kids?” That was a fair question but I think I do this for the same reason we all do it; to make the world a better place.
In my quest to make the world a better place, I joined the OCDEL Policy Fellowship. This program had multiple benefits, but the one that is most relevant to the point of this blog (which I promise I will get to at some point) is the access to high ranking state officials. Meetings with Secretaries of Human Services and Education, the Deputy Secretary of OCDEL, and even bumping into the Governor while buying pizza while at the OCDEL Policy Fellowship helped me prepare for an exciting but nerve-racking experience last week.
I have been lucky enough to be seen as an expert in early childhood education that legislators can turn to. Last week State Representatives Solomon and Mehaffie introduced House Bill 1742 and invited me to attend the press conference since I helped them craft the legislation as part of a group of concerned stakeholders. What I did not know, is they were hoping I would “say a few words about the process of developing the bill”.
Literally 5 minutes before we were to be on stage, I was asked if I could I say a few words. I was happy to share my knowledge and story of why informing families of STARS ratings is important, which is what the bill proposes, but I don’t know that I would have had the confidence to speak to reporters at a formal press conference had I not already had audiences with some of the most powerful people in the Commonwealth. For those wondering, when I stepped up to the microphone I said the following…. OK. I literally have no idea of what I said, but I assume and hope it was something like this:
“Raising children is a task that none of us could ever be prepared for. No matter hope many books we read or friends we listen to or little cousins, nephews, or nieces we borrow to ‘practice with’ for a weekend, we will never understand the awesome responsibility until it happens to us. I believe that most families love their children and want the best for them. I believe most early education providers love working with children and want the best for them. Issues arise when we don’t know what ‘the best’ is.
We are fortunate enough to live in a state where the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has devised a way to inform both families and providers of where they stand in terms of quality. A simple one to four rating scale lets us know where our children will be spending their time… or it would if every family was made aware of what their child’s provider’s STAR rating is. This legislation proposes a way to do that so all families will know what they are getting.
OCDEL has recently made the STARS system more user friendly and flexible to allow providers of all shapes and sizes to move through the ratings as long as they can demonstrate quality in their own way. We want to be fair to all providers and encourage them to take advantage of the free technical assistance provided by the STARS system to assure they reach the highest quality ratings.”
Of course what I probably said was “Uh… STARS are good and families should know that. Thank you.”