Investing in Idaho's Preschoolers

Posted at 10:16 PM, Feb 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 09:15:47-05

This week early education advocates will rally at the Statehouse trying, yet again, to get lawmakers to invest in Idaho's youngest citizens. Idaho is one of only a few states that does not fund preschool. But new local statistics proves Pre-K works. So why isn't the Legislature listening?

Step into a classroom at Cooperative Preschool in Boise and you'll see three and four year olds engaged in all different kinds of play. It's the long time school's philosophy in action. Anne Cirello, the school's director simply says, "We are unapologetically Play Based." Play Based means the children's own interests, not a set curriculum directs the teachers. Like painting that turns into pretend cooking. Educators believe play based learning sparks creativity and teaches young children to be independent thinkers. Cirello says it makes sense. "You hear business leaders talk all the time about how they need people who can collaborate, think critically, solve problems, and unless we create a foundation for that early, these kids don't learn how to do that."

Most Idaho children do not have an opportunity to attend any kind of preschool. Idaho is one of only six state that does not support Pre-K. Beth Oppenheimer, from Idaho A.E.T.C. says it's time for moms and dads to speak up. "I do believe that it is going to come down to families raising their voice and saying to their lawmakers, hey this is not fair these communities get to have preschool and we don't." Early advocates argue our state's youngest are already behind the time they enter kindergarten. And the latest testing backs that up. This fall, fifty percent, half, of all Idaho kindergartners were not prepared to learn to read.

The Boise School District is proving Pre-K works. Last year the district launched a pilot project in two low income schools with a goal to increase reading readiness. This school year, eighty three percent of children who went through the program came into kindergarten prepared.

Parents at the Cooperative Preschool say they are thankful for this special place, and they believe more young minds deserve the chance to experience this kind of learning.