Early learning advocates rally at Statehouse

 

Advocates for early childhood education turned out in force Wednesday — in legislative committees and on the Statehouse steps.

Early Learning Rally1A lunch-hour Early Learning Legislative Day rally drew pre-kindergarten supporters to the Capitol, and featured a bipartisan lineup of speakers: GOP Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Reps. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and Hy Kloc, D-Boise.

Perry and Kloc aren’t new to the debate over pre-k — an uphill legislative battle, and seemingly a perennial topic at the Statehouse. They have drafted bills in past legislative sessions, proposing state-funded pre-K pilots. However, these bills have not made it out of the House Education Committee.

Also Wednesday, early learning advocates had their day to make their case to the House and Senate education committees. Noreen Womack, a pediatrician, said a child’s first 1,000 days of life are crucial to building a foundation for school. Priscilla Salant of the University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy discussed access issues — and said early education programs are scarce in Idaho, particularly in small towns.

Red was the prevailing color in committee rooms, as early learning advocates donned red scarves as a show of support. Even Sen. Steven Thayn, an Emmett Republican and longtime pre-K skeptic, wore one of the red scarves. Nonetheless, Thayn posed a few skeptical questions. Pre-K advocates are talking about launching programs, he said, when the state should strike a balance between programs and parental support.Early Learning Rally 2

Idaho is one of only five states that do not fund pre-K programs.