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Branstad administration unveils Iowa Preschool Program; Steckman responds

Today, Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled their Iowa Preschool Program. The program helps eligible 4-year-olds attend quality private and public preschools starting in the 2011-2012 school year.|(From the Governor’s website, located at https://governor.iowa.gov)

Today, Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled their Iowa Preschool Program. The program helps eligible 4-year-olds attend quality private and public preschools starting in the 2011-2012 school year.

“Research shows that investing in a superb preschool program pays off for financially disadvantaged youth by raising academic achievement,” said Branstad. “By providing all Iowa children the opportunity to attend preschool we will reduce the need for special education services and for children to repeat grades.”

A $3,000 annual Iowa Preschool Scholarship will be available to eligible 4-year-olds to attend preschool for a minimum 10 hours of preschool a week. All families of eligible 4-year-olds contribute to tuition with sliding scale fees based on federal poverty guidelines up to 300 percent of poverty. Parents will choose which private or public preschool they want their child to attend, provided there is space available. For convenience, an Iowa Department of Education website will allow parents to enter their Zip code to find a participating program near their home or work.

Some other key pieces of the Iowa Preschool Program include:

ï Participating private and public programs must meet strong state preschool requirements including providing instruction that meets one of the following: Head Start Performance Standards, National Association of Education of Young Children Standards and Criteria, or Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards.
ï A common, comprehensive statewide assessment will measure performance of 4-year-old Iowa Preschool Scholarship recipients and as many other 4-year-olds in preschool as possible. It will guide sound instructional decisions and show whether preschool programs are successful.
ï The Iowa Department of Education decides whether private and public preschool programs meet state requirements, monitors quality and collects data.
ï School districts register 4-year-olds eligible for Iowa Preschool Scholarships for the private or public preschool their parents choose, collecting proof of income and sending state funding to private programs. This is the case whether or not the district operates its own preschool.
ï Early Childhood Iowa is a key partner with public and private preschools and the state in promoting the Iowa Preschool Scholarships. They will receive an annual report from the Iowa Department of Education on Preschool Scholarships and advise the department on promoting collaboration with other programs and services.
ï Early Childhood Iowa will strengthen preschool program quality in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Education and Area Education Agencies.
ï Private preschools collect the fees parents pay for children receiving Iowa Preschool Scholarships who attend their programs. Public preschools do the same.

Parents may use pre-tax dollars to pay for their child’s preschool. The state appropriation is $43.6 million, plus parent contributions. Part of the funding will pay for three oversight positions, the statewide assessment and, the state website that promotes Iowa Preschool Scholarships and the promotion of preschool in general.

House Democrats released the following information on their website, http://iowahouse.org:

Rep. Nate Willems, ranking member of the House Education Committee responds to Governor Branstad’s Preschool Plan that was released this morning.

“The Governor’s plan ends the state’s high quality preschool initiative for 20,000 Iowa four year olds. It will reduce access to preschool in communities across Iowa and make it more difficult for middle class families.

With no certified teacher, the Governor’s plan gives parents no guarantee of quality instruction for their children. With no reliable statewide program, school districts will also be forced to end partnerships with private preschool providers.”


Representative Sharon Steckman shared the following response with NorthIowaToday.com to Branstad’s plan:

“Governor Branstad’s announcement today concerning 4 Year Old Preschool was a disappointment. He chose big corporations over kids. Over 791 public and private preschools participate in the program, this year serving over 21,000 young children. The proposal basically ends Iowa’s successful statewide preschool program, and hurts hardworking, middle class Iowa families. On the other hand, corporations earning a profit of over $25 million will be receiving a tax cut amounting to almost twice what preschool costs the state. I am hopeful that in the weeks to come we can work together in support the education of ALL Iowa children.”

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