North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department has entrusted the state’s Child Development and Early Education division to Dianna Lightfoot, a staunch opponent to early childhood education. Lightfoot founded the National Physicians Center, an organization primarily devoted to abstinence education. Starting Monday, Lightfoot will oversee the child-care and pre-kindergarten education programs she has denigrated for years.
In an open letter, Lightfoot’s organization attacked institutional pre-school programs, claiming they make children dependent on the government:
“In the case of early childhood education programs, available research suggests they may actually be inferior to early learning opportunities at home. In addition, it appears the demand for out of home childcare is not as prevalent as many advocates claim,” says an open letter signed by Lightfoot on the group’s website.
The letter also warns that “There is great potential for early learning institutions to foster more dependency on the government (i.e. taxpayer) and more of an entitlement mentality.”
“Will institutions focus on character building and teaching strong values? If so, whose values will children be taught?” it asks.
Lightfoot is hardly alone in her idea that pre-school breeds dependency; conservatives as prominent as former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) have called for dismantling early childhood education because it “indoctrinates” children for the government.
Lightfoot’s open letter also quotes a 1997 Glamour poll as evidence that most mothers prefer to keep their children home from pre-school. However, there is far more evidence that pre-kindergarten programs immensely benefit children throughout their lives. As a new Center for American Progress report notes, a child without early education is 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teenage parent, and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
Lightfoot also scrubbed her Twitter account on Wednesday after a progressive group published her tweet from July 2011 mocking then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “butch” and praising Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) for maintaining their “femininity.” On her Facebook page, she lashed out at Chick-fil-a for following the “lead of a weak, appeasing president” and toning down its anti-gay activism.
WRAL reports that Dianna Lightfoot has decided to decline the position. On Thursday afternoon, a DHHS spokesman released this statement: “Dianna Lightfoot was scheduled to start at HHS next week as Director of Child Development and Early Education. Ms. Lightfoot informed Secretary Wos this morning that she does not wish to be a distraction to the department and will pursue other opportunities. Secretary Wos accepted this decision.”