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Supporters of Early Education Rally at Capitol Today

Early learning advocates are rallying in Boise today to promote state funding for pre-kindergarten programs.(anitapeppers/morguefile)
Early learning advocates are rallying in Boise today to promote state funding for pre-kindergarten programs.(anitapeppers/morguefile)
February 10, 2016

BOISE, Idaho - Early childhood education advocates are holding a rally today on the steps of the state Capitol in Boise calling for state funded pre-kindergarten for four year olds.

Idaho is one of only five states that invests zero state dollars in early childhood programs. Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, says many of the Gem State's kids are already behind before they even start school.

"About half of our children in Idaho are entering kindergarten without being able to identify 11 letters in the alphabet," says Oppenheimer. "So we automatically from day one have an achievement gap."

Oppenheimer wants lawmakers to fund pre-K programs but says many of them believe that preschool is the parents' responsibility. However, private preschool programs often cost more than $500 a month per child, putting it out of reach for many Idaho families.

Idaho does have some federal preschool programs called Head Start, that help low-income children and their parents. One of the speakers at the rally will be William Strength, who overcame his own abusive childhood with help of Head Start's family programs, programs he found when he enrolled his two young daughters.

"They saved my family. I was able to get my life on track," says Strength. "I'm about nine credits away from graduating now from college. They led my wife to go to college. And she's a now a Head Start teacher."

Twice in the past few years, a bill to establish a pilot preschool program died in committee. A new bill called the School Readiness Act will be introduced soon. It would establish a local collaborative preschool program similar to one in Mississippi that would be funded half by the state, half by the local areas.




Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ID