State's new Pre-K chief opposes pre-K

Posted February 6, 2013

— Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos announced Tuesday that Dianna Lightfoot has been appointed the state's new director of Child Development and Early Education.  

The Division of Child Development and Early Education, or DCDEE, oversees the state's child-care program as well as NC Pre-K, which was moved into Health and Human Services from the Department of Public Instruction last session. 

From the DHHS news release:

"Ms. Lightfoot is a strategic and tactical top tier policy executive with extensive healthcare, child welfare and education expertise,” said Secretary Wos. "Her leadership will ensure we meet the State’s longstanding commitment to protect and serve our young children.”

Lightfoot has served as president of the National Physicians Center, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that supports and promotes healthcare public policies and education, a post she has held since 2001. ... She holds a master’s degree in psychology and community relations, a counseling license and a secondary teaching credential.

The National Physicians Center for Family Resources, which Lightfoot founded in 2001, advocates against "institutional" preschool programs.

"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.

The North Carolina Democratic Party immediately criticized the move, noting the state was a national pioneer in early childhood education.

"For Gov. McCrory, who stated his support for Pre-K during the campaign, and Secretary Wos to appoint someone who actively advocates against Pre-K, who believes that educating our children will result in 'an entitlement mentality,' demonstrates a total lack of respect for the educational process and a willingness to sacrifice North Carolina’s future a political goal,” Democratic spokesman Clay Pittman said in a statement.

Before 2001, Lightfoot served in executive positions at conservative think tanks in South Carolina and Alabama.  

She starts work at DHHS next Monday at an annual salary of $110,000.

"When she comes to work here Feb. 11, she'll be working for the secretary, and they both work for the governor," DHHS spokeswoman Julie Henry said when asked about  Lightfoot's potential conflict of interest.

Henry said Lightfoot has resigned from the National Physicians Center and suggested that she may have changed her views, but she couldn't say whether the new director now supports public preschool.

Lightfoot has not yet responded to interview requests.


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  • goldenosprey Feb 7, 2013

    Republicans want dumb kids in NC. Art Pope can pay them lower wages. Smart kids might get out of poverty and shop at Target or Sears instead of the Maxway.

  • williamsh03 Feb 7, 2013

    Any of you other "random clowns" (thank you kiwileex3)Early Interventionists? This is beyond ignorance and beyond denial. This is a cynicism and harmful disrespect to the development of our young children far more deeply rooted in a twisted motive. The devastating impact of this type of thinking is far reaching and results in hopelessness among the advocates of one of our most vunerable populations.

    From a purely selfish, personal perspective, when I go out to provide services to young children, I would far rather sit on the floor of a Pre-K classroom than on a critter infested floor of a decrepit trailer of drug dealing, foul mouthed, abusive parents with stunted moral development. Early childhood programs provide safety and meet basic needs for children for an eight hour stretch. For some children, the only nurturing and validation that they are worthwhile people come from the adults working in these programs.

  • Krimson Feb 7, 2013

    "Early Childhood Education is a euphemism for free daycare."

    That may be so, but there are many studies that show that effective early education leads to "better" and more productive adults. I would imagine that these adults are less likely to require adult day-care (welfare or prison).

    There is an ongoing study by Duke University (Kenneth Dodge, Helen Ladd, and Clara Muschkin) that shows that the cost-benefit ratio is very high, ie. paying a little now gets the same results as paying a lot more later. Also look at the research done by UNC's Frank Porter Graham Institute. Google should find it for you.

    The evidence is overwhelming - effective Pre-K makes a smarter, better, and more productive society that benefits everyone.

    Interestingly enough, NC has recently achieved an 80% graduation rate, the highest in god-know-how-long... Those students graduating now would have been approx. 4years old when Gov. Hunt laid the groundwork for Pre-K in 1997...

  • exteacher Feb 7, 2013

    Did anyone *notice* that Secretary Wos is a PHYSICIAN which means she had years of education in the subject.. including a MASTER'S in PSYCHOLOGY (which includes child development)? Don't you think she would know what is important during a child's development better than you random clowns? I'm sure she has plenty of research backing up her opinions. I'm also pretty sure her opinion is that your mother/family/community should be teaching you "(1) social development, (2) physical development, (3) emotional development, and (4) cognitive development" (wikipedia) instead of an institution that you have no role in, and I couldn't agree more.


    A master in psychology doesn't mean she studied child development. And, NO, she doesn't know what is best for young children. If she did, she would not have hired this woman. But the fact is, she has been hired to dismantle all of the early childhood programs we currently have-doing Pope's bidding.

  • exteacher Feb 7, 2013

    Frankly, if a person can't learn enough between the ages of 5 and 25 to be a productive member of society, then an additonal 2-3 years probabably isn't going to do much for them.

    JoCo50 at MXR

    I hope you aren't a parent! Try doing some independent research and you will see that children's brains are 90% developed by the time they are 3. The BEST time to help a child reach his/her full potential later in life is to make sure that child has had the opportunity to develop its brain to the maximum. You can't wait till a child is 5 to start educating. You think kids arrive at the schoolhouse door like an empty bucket waiting to be filled up?
    This woman has been hired to carry out Civitas' and Art Pope's plan to do away with ALL preschool opportunities (Smart Start and NC Pre-K) as well as the star rating system for day care centers. They think it will be fine to warehouse poor children until they start kindergarten. It is a sad day for NC and its most vulnerable citizens.

  • JoCo50 at MXR Feb 7, 2013

    Early Childhood Education is a euphemism for free daycare.

    Of course, free daycare is a popular government program, just like free food and free cellphones.

    Children need to experience childhood worse than they need to be shuttled off to some so-called early childhood education.

    Frankly, if a person can't learn enough between the ages of 5 and 25 to be a productive member of society, then an additonal 2-3 years probabably isn't going to do much for them.

  • Terkel Feb 7, 2013

    miseem, the only thing that occurs to me to handle the children who don't have households where education is valued, is that we have to attack that problem at the root. I know it's not this simple, but cut back on other free stuff till people stop having children they just can't raise responsibly. To do that, you need love and more. There are societal, civic, and maybe religious mores to be *respected*. Children aren't paychecks or cute accessories. They require sacrifice and work, and there are no guarantees.

    I'm not convinced that sending babies and toddlers to be warehoused by govt emps is the answer. Someone else said NC is 49th in Educ. Then pre-k isn't good education, murderers are younger and colder, and girls are killing too. Pre-k doesn't seem to do much good for at-risk kids.

  • trubtold Feb 6, 2013

    Now that the sun is beginning to shine on North Carolina's Tea Party Governor and legislature you can see this is heading to a divided state of rich or poor...educated and uneducated. There will be no middle ground. There will be a separate set of rules that apply to the haves and a different set for the have nots. And there will be menial vocational jobs and menial vocational education provided to supply the haves with a labor force to keep their businesses pumping. Sounds like the ole Dixie White way of running the show.

  • PeaceRH Feb 6, 2013

    Her comment about early learning institution causing "an entitlement mentality" is what bothers me the most... this isn't based off of research, this is this woman's opinion. Quite frankly, it sounds ignorant.

  • miseem Feb 6, 2013


    Very interseting comment. The studies cited in a 2011 article are from the late 1990's and 2001. Really up to date. Plus, most of the "findings" are that children learn and mature better in a household with supportive parents. Amazing, as so many people criticizing publicly funded studies say. However, some children do not have those benefits. What about them?