Idaho preschool bill to get a public hearing

Early education gives kindergartners a head start, the sponsor says.

(IDAHO FALLS) POST REGISTERMarch 4, 2014 

A Rexburg Republican offered to help a Boise Democrat get his plan to establish a three-year pilot program for five public preschools considered in committee.

Rexburg Rep. Douglas Hancey co-sponsored Boise Rep. Hy Kloc’s proposal for the $1.4 million pilot program to begin assessing a public preschool program as the state establishes tougher assessments and education standards, known as the Idaho Core Standards.

The House Education Committee agreed to print Kloc’s bill, allowing the legislation to come back before the committee for a public hearing in coming days.

“We need local preschool programs (run) by districts and (run) by educators — and not government bureaucracies — to do what’s necessary to prepare our children to do well in schools,” Hancey said.

Kloc said about 45 percent, or $640,000, of the money for the pilot would come from the state, while 55 percent, or $760,000, would come from private grants. The legislation does not outline which agencies would supply the grants, but the funding will be certified by the State Department of Education for the Legislature.

Students who are enrolled in preschool are better prepared for schoolwork and have higher reading proficiency than those who come from families who cannot afford pre-K, Kloc said.

“I view it as building a house,” Kloc said. “We have to make sure the foundation is … sturdy.”

Kloc said the program would provide money for no more than five public preschools in school districts selected by the State Department of Education. Classes would be limited to 22 students.

Districts would have to apply for the pilot program by Jan. 1. Applicants would be selected by April 2015, but the programs would go forward only if the State Department of Education and private grants have sufficient money available.

The program can be expanded if the pilots prove successful.

Hancey and Kloc said the earlier children are exposed to education through parents and through preschool, the more successful they’ll be later in life.

“Our bill calls for working with parents to develop the skills needed so they can be better teachers for their children,” Kloc said. “We want to help the parent help their children succeed.”

Hancey said the proposal can help Idaho reach the State Board of Education’s goal that 60 percent of residents ages 25 to 34 will have a degree or certificate by 2020.

“We often hear talk about an educated workforce,” Hancey said. “Well, preschool is the first step of meeting that goal.”

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