Party platforms differ on pre-K funding

Idaho’s Republican and Democratic parties took divergent views on pre-K during their biennial conventions last weekend.

Meeting in Pocatello, Republicans eschewed the idea of state-funded pre-K. Instead, the GOP amended its platform to add language deferring to families and the private sector on early education. (Click here to read more about the platform debates from Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press, and click here to look at proposed amendments discussed at the GOP convention.)

Meeting in Caldwell, Democrats approved a platform that supports pre-K. (Click here to read more about the platform from Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press and click here to read the platform.)

The Democrats’ platform does not overtly address state funding for pre-K. But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan and state superintendent’s candidate Cindy Wilson both support state-funded pre-K.

GOP gubernatorial nominee Brad Little has testified in favor of pre-K in the past, but he has distanced himself from a state program. He now says he supports an early education block grant program that local school districts could put toward pre-K. Republican state superintendent Sherri Ybarra has never sought state funding for pre-K, and instead advocates an early education smartphone app that a private vendor has offered to make available to parents of 4-year-olds, at no charge.

The pre-K divide comes as Idaho is ranked last in the nation for pre-K access, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released last week. Idaho is one of six states that does not fund pre-K.

On other education topics, the Democrats’ platform includes language supporting “tuition-free postsecondary education, including two- and four-year colleges.” Another plank reads, “We support our teachers and staff, including competitive compensation and their right to collective bargaining.”

Republicans approved a resolution that would allow local school districts to opt out of the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, Kruesi reports. A draft of the resolution states there is “little evidence” that ISAT scores have improved. But ISAT scores improved in several grades and in both math and English language arts, according to 2018 scores Ybarra’s office released in mid-June.

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