The ABCs Of Preschool Funding


By Aimee Burnett

Twin Falls, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) Idaho is one of eleven states without a state-funded preschool program.

But, a less well-known fact is that kindergarten is not required statewide, either.

With the introduction of core standards nationwide beginning in kindergarten, will Gem State kids be behind?

Counting is just one thing Samantha Paul has learned to do in her first few years of preschool.

"She can write her name, she knows her numbers, she knows her colors, she's learning shapes, and we can work with her at home, but we both work 40 hours a week. We have an extra job on the side. I mean she wouldn't be getting the quality that she's getting at school," says Lonnie Paul.

That is what led Samantha’s mother Lonnie and her husband to enroll Samantha and her little sister Tatum in early education classes.

"We didn't want them to get behind starting out, and we wanted them to get the feel of a classroom setting, and making friends and being on their own. And, even sitting down and just focusing," Paul explains.

A bill was introduced during the last legislative session that would have placed half day preschools in select schools throughout the state. It carried a 1.4 million dollar price tag.

Lawmakers shot it down.

"K - Career, this is our goal. And, the task force came up with 20 ways we need to do better with K-Career. And, 200-300 million dollars, well we have just started down that road, and we haven't caught up with where we were in 2008. So, to me, it just seemed like a diversion of money," explains District 25 Representative Maxine Bell.

The Twin Falls School District has two preschool programs, one for migratory children and one through special education. Both are federally funded.

"I think we do need to work toward a full-day required kindergarten and then move into the preschool,” says Patti O’Dell, Associate Superintendent in the Twin Falls School District

A reading inventory is taken in kindergarten classes within the district, and, as Patti O’Dell explains, teachers often notice a difference in their students.

“Students that have attended preschool programs, or have strong programs that their parents are providing at home, generally score much higher on the readiness screeners that we give," O’Dell says.

For now, it will be up to Idaho parents like Lonnie to decide whether their children need early education.

"She's really proud of herself, and she's trying to teach her sister like numbers, and letters and colors. So, she's really pleased with herself that she can do those things," Paul says.

Making the price tag of private school worth it for the Paul family.

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