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Project Idaho: Lack of funding for early education

February 12, 2019

Idaho is one of only five states (Idaho, New Hampshire, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming) that doesn’t provide state funding for preschool.

In the 2017 legislative session, Montana passed legislation to expand its state funded preschool pilot program.

The Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children took a poll last year asking Idaho voters what they thought about investing in preschool.

They found that 76 percent of those surveyed believed that the state should be putting money into education opportunities before children enter kindergarten.

Idaho AEYC says right now only 30 percent of three and four year olds in Idaho have the opportunities to participate in preschool.

They say the reason for the low participation comes down to lack of access and affordability.

Beth Oppenheimer, Idaho AEYC director, says about half of Idaho students starting school don’t have the basic foundation skills that they need to be prepared for kindergarten.

“Research after research points to the fact that preschool is really important for growth and development of young children also for school readiness. The more that we can have our children in environments and provide those opportunities for them to learn the basic foundational skills that they need to be prepared for school,” Oppenheimer said. “Those early literacy, those early math skills. The social emotional development that they get from an early childhood program will impact their school readiness and put them on a path to success in kindergarten through 12th grade and even beyond.”

Boise State’s 2019 Public Policy Survey also found that there is support for increasing funding for early childhood education.

People are more supportive of doing this through increased taxes than they are of doing it by reducing spending on other educational programs.

The Idaho AEYC is working on a project called ‘Preschool the Idaho Way.’ It will identify communities throughout the state and help them take early education into their own hands in order to develop high quality preschool programs.