Bumpy road ahead for early childhood education plan

broberts@idahostatesman.comJanuary 13, 2014 

Nora Carpenter, United Way of Treasure Valley CEO and president, addresses critics' concerns about early childhood education in Idaho.

IDAHO STATESMAN

Proponents of early childhood education say they'll try again this year to win legislative support, but the head of the House Education Committee says he has other priorities.

State Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, says he will present a proposal to the House Education Committee soon that creates a public-private partnership for $1.4 million to test early childhood education programs in five school districts over three years. He wants the state to pay about $600,000 and private groups would pay $750,000.

Kloc says studies show strong success rates among students who attend preschool programs. “This is about the future of this state,” he said.

But Kloc’s plan is going to run head on into debate over recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, which came up with a list of 20 reforms in 2013, but didn’t touch early childhood education.

“It’s important to get the core system right,” Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, House Education chairman and a task force member. “I don’t know whether time will allow it.”

He wouldn’t say on whether he would keep an early childhood education bill from coming to a hearing.

Idaho lawmakers have consistently rebuffed attempts to adopt early childhood education in the past by saying it’s the family’s job to educate preschool kids and the state needs to concentrate its resources on kindergarten through 12th grade.

Early childhood advocates have suggested that success of the task force recommendations, including requiring students to master one subject before moving on to the next, would be limited without students having a solid background from early childhood education. DeMordaunt said data shows the effects of pre-kindergarten education are negligible if the public education system is not doing a good job.

Kloc announced his proposal in the Statehouse Monday, flanked by early childhood education supporters such as the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, United Way of Treasure Valley and the Treasure Valley YMCA.

Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney also supported early childhood education, saying he believes it would reduce felony arrests. He predicted Idaho could save $30 million to $50 million through a 20 percent reduction in felony arrests, based on national statistics showing the benefits of early childhood education.

Kloc said his bill had bipartisan support. Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg, joined Kloc at the press conference.

No other Republicans were named as supporters. Hancey said he knew of three others who would support the bill but declined to name them without their permission.

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