On January 19th the Iowa House of Representatives voted 60-40 to cut the 4 Year Old Preschool Program.|(From Rep. Sharon Steckman)
On January 19th the Iowa House of Representatives voted 60-40 to cut the 4 Year Old Preschool Program. Before I discuss that particular cut I also want to mention that HF45 also cut Iowa’s Core Curriculum and JEL (just eliminate smoking), $40 million to our State Regents Universities, $10 million from AEA’s. These were just the education cuts in that bill. Next week the Iowa House will be debating a 0% allowable growth for all Iowa K-12 public schools, the first time in the history of school funding. Not a hallmark decision to be proud of.
What are our priorities this session, Education, Jobs? To date it does not seem so.
The Iowa Department of Economic Development states on their website (IowaLifeChanging.com), “The very foundation of Iowa’s thriving economy is its top educational institutions. A dedicated commitment to education contributes to its high school graduation rate—Iowa’s graduation rate is among the top five in the country (CQ Press, 2010). Iowa consistently earns high marks among education experts including a top ten ranking for best education climate by Business Facilities Magazine.”
A top priority of Iowa’s business community has been investment in early childhood education. There is no better use of taxpayer money than to invest in the future of our workforce, our youngest Iowans. Studies show that for every dollar invested in early childhood education taxpayers save at least $7 later.
Data* shows that children that participate in quality pre-school programs are;
ï More likely to experience success in reading and math K-12
ï More likely to graduate from high school
ï More likely to be employed as an adult
ï More likely to own a home
ï Less likely to repeat grades or need special services
ï Less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system
Iowa has one of the highest numbers of families with both parents working full-time jobs. Many of these families are making just enough money to not qualify for the proposed voucher system. Cutting 4 Year Old Preschool will hurt those Iowa families working hard to make ends meet, some working two or three jobs. They can’t leave in the middle of the day to drive their child to preschool. Transportation is one of the key components that makes this program successful, and it works for middle class Iowans. When I visited one of the preschools here in town, 16 of the 20 students needed transportation to get back to day care. One parent wrote to me that with no immediate family in the area, there was no way she could transport her daughter to preschool. She also expressed appreciation for the high standard curriculum that aligns with K-12 education, the quality, licensed early childhood educator, and the small class size.
Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program began in 2007 with a little over 5,000 students enrolled. In just four years it has grown to over 21,000 children. There are preschools in 326 school districts, and those districts have partnered with 465 private and faith based preschools. It has grown in just 4 short years because Iowa families see its value. This program is vital to the growth of Iowa and Iowa’s workforce and should be kept intact.
I am an educator at heart, so when I stood on the floor of the House during the debate to defend preschool, I asked Legislators to raise their hands if they had taken the time to visit one of the 791 preschools in Iowa communities. I was surprised to see less than a dozen hands go up. I would encourage you to visit one of our preschools, or talk to a parent or grandparent who has a child that is or has attended one. Then write your Legislator and encourage them to do the same.
“Children are our most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” President John F. Kennedy
Iowa State Representative
House District 13
Education Week-Building Blocks for Success, 2002
National Institute for Early Education Research ñ Rutgers University
Investing in Preschool ñ American School Board Journal, January 2003
Leaving Too Many Children Behind ñ Institute for Educational Leadership, April 2003