Pre-K backers continue their push

One day after a pre-kindergarten pilot bill cleared its first legislative hurdle, early education advocacy groups are hoping to build on this momentum.

Idaho Kids Count and the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children issued a four-page brief Tuesday, touting the myriad benefits of pre-kindergarten. Some of the benefits are short-term: preparing young children for school and building reading skills. But the groups also say pre-K will reap long-term benefits — from preparing children for studies in the “STEM” disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to preparing young people for military service.

“Investing in young children is an investment in national security,” the groups said in their brief.

State Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, has written a pre-kindergarten pilot bill, which would establish five programs statewide. The pilots would receive $600,000 in state funding over three years, but 55 percent of program funding would come from private sources.

A divided House Education Committee voted to introduce the bill Monday — which could set the stage for a full hearing at a later date. But with lawmakers hoping to adjourn by March 21, the bill’s chances of passage would appear remote.

Idaho is one of only 10 states that do not fund pre-K. And only a third of the state’s 3- to 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K, according to a previous Kids Count study.

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