The Christian Science Monitor

Tulsa experiment tests how tightly woven a safety net has to be

Three kids, three classrooms, one mom in a hurry.

It’s a familiar scene in Educare, an early education center in Tulsa, a city of 400,000 that has become a test of whether investing early in disadvantaged kids holds the key to decoupling childhood poverty from adult failure. Children start at Educare as young as 6 weeks and the bill – $24,000 a year per child – is underwritten by private donors.

On this icy Monday morning, Hayzetta Nichols is the mom in a hurry. She drops off Myracle, age 3 – “Bye, princess!” – and Lijah, her 2-year-old son, then finally Loyal, who turned 1 in March. She’s out the door in 10 minutes.

As Lavelle, her husband, heads home, I drive Ms. Nichols and her black wheelie bag stuffed with books and folders to Tulsa Community College. She is attending her final classes before midterm exams, her first since she went back to school in January to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker, a dream put on hold while starting her family.

“Two classes I’m passing. Two classes I’m failing,”

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