Boise school trustees approve new pre-K pilot program

The Boise School Board has approved a three-year pre-K pilot program based out of Hawthorne and Whitney elementary schools.

Don Coberly square
Boise Superintendent Don Coberly

The program, designed to serve 60 students in the city’s Vista neighborhood, represents a partnership between the school district and the city of Boise.

“The research is clear that pre-K works,” Superintendent Don Coberly said in a news release. “Our previous experience also showed that kids who participate in quality pre-K programs perform much better in kindergarten, particularly in reading. This pilot is a welcome addition to the efforts we are already implementing around early childhood learning.”

School trustees approved the program Monday. The Boise City Council gave the partnership a green light during a May 5 work session, city spokesman Mike Journee said.

Through the partnership, the school district will provide the facilities, curriculum delivery and administrative support. Meanwhile, the city will fund instructional staff and supplies.

Idaho is one of only six states without state-funded preschool. The most recent, bipartisan effort to launch a statewide pilot program failed during the 2015 legislative session. Boise Democratic Rep. Hy Kloc was able to draft a bill, enlist the support of Republican co-sponsors and introduce the legislation, but the bill did not get a hearing.

A new report issued by the National Institute for Early Education Research found that Idaho’s pre-K enrollment numbers are among the lowest in the country. According to that report, just 6.8 percent of Idaho’s 3-year-olds were enrolled in federal- or state-funded Head Start or special education programs during the 2013-14 school year – the lowest percentage in the country.

Advocates argue that pre-K and early childhood learning programs increase students’ readiness to attend kindergarten and translate to higher literacy rates in elementary school. Opponents, especially in the Legislature, argue that young children are best educated at home and that state officials need to improve their existing K-12 system before expanding state-funded educational offerings.

In Boise’s pilot project, two sessions will be offered at Hawthorne, with an additional session staged at Whitney, district spokesman Dan Hollar said. City and school officials are still finalizing the application process and screening procedures and considering a starting day for the program.

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