$3.3 million grant for early childhood education in Idaho

Posted at 4:23 PM, Dec 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-20 18:23:44-05

BOISE — Idaho is receiving a federal $3.3 million grant to improve early childhood education. The money gives the association the ability to look at the existing programs, and see just how effectively they're working or if there's room to improve.

"Might be an infant-toddler program, it might be our childcare system, our preschool programs, any program that is geared towards serving children birth to 5 years old and do a deep dive assessment, and look at things like what exists what works how is it funded, or what are the impacts on children school readiness," said executive director of Idaho AEYC Beth Oppenheimer.

They won't be adding seats or creating new preschool programs; they'll instead be making a strategic plan to improve existing programs.

"We don't have collective information around what works, what doesn't work, hows it funded," said Oppenheimer.

This is the first year Idaho is receiving the federal grant, and one of the few times it's going towards a non-profit. The association says there have been other opportunities to apply, but the goals of previous administrations and grants didn't align quite right.

"Historically, over the past ten years, under the previous administration, the state preschool grants were designed to build seats, so they were designed to either build preschool programs or expand preschool programs," said Oppenheimer, "under our current administration these preschool grants has shifted."

Both quantity and quality of programs matter, but this grant focuses on quality for all early childhood programs.

"We're also going to be looking at existing programs and share best practices amongst programs, so again, what's working, what's not working, and the final piece of the grant will be to be able to improve the quality of some of these programs based on what we find out in the data," said Oppenheimer.

It's a year-long grant starting January 1. For the first half of the year, the association is assessing needs and developing a strategic state plan. The latter half focuses on sharing what works between programs and connecting parents to the resources.