Ahlquist, Little reject state-funded pre-K push

A week after a statewide poll indicated widespread support for pre-K, two Republican gubernatorial candidates criticized the idea.

Speaking at a Monday forum sponsored by the Twin Falls City Club, Boise businessman and physician Tommy Ahlquist and Lt. Gov. Brad Little both said they opposed state-funded pre-K. (The Twin Falls Times-News has full coverage of the forum.)

Ahlquist’s reluctance on pre-K is not surprising. In an August interview with Idaho Education News, Ahlquist praised locally run pre-K programs but stopped short of endorsing a statewide model. “Just because the state’s involved, it doesn’t guarantee consistency.”

Little’s position on pre-K is a nuanced one. In a September interview with Idaho Education News, he floated the idea of block grants that districts could use to fund pre-K or all-day kindergarten, reduce class sizes or foster increased parental involvement. Less than a year ago, Little spoke alongside early education advocates as they pitched for pre-K at Statehouse hearings.

Some of those same pre-K advocates were back at the Statehouse Wednesday, releasing results of a statewide poll that indicated that more than three-fourths of Idahoans support state-funded pre-K.

Absent from Monday’s Twin Falls forum was the third major Republican candidate for governor, Rep. Raul Labrador. He was invited to the forum but could not attend, according to the Times-News.

In an Idaho Education News interview in September, Labrador said an expansion into pre-K would create “14 years of inefficiency” in the public school system. “I think that’s going the wrong way.”

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