The 2021 session was disappointing for a number of reasons, but the Legislature rejecting a $6 million grant to develop early-learning initiatives for children might have been the lowest point.
That money would have helped communities build and fund preschool programs in accordance with local needs and values. But Republicans were bullied by the Idaho Freedom Foundation into voting against the grant, which had been secured by our U.S. senators under the Trump administration. Because of this, Idaho remains one of four states that doesn’t offer public pre-K.
Now the IFF’s Idaho Freedom Action group has launched a smear campaign against us for voting in support of early childhood education, saying we were pushing “critical race theory” on Idaho children. What dangerous nonsense.
Investigation after investigation proves CRT isn’t being taught in our schools at any level. And yet, that false narrative continues to be pushed by the IFF and its legislative puppets in order to defund and undermine public education in Idaho, causing serious damage to our local communities, educators, and children.
This malicious lie also just distracts us from addressing the real issues impacting Idahoans, like underfunded schools and a lack of accessible child care options.
For many, pre-K serves as a form of day care for children while parents are at work. It also helps children develop a number of critical skills, like literacy, that better prepare them for success in kindergarten. Had we accepted the $6 million grant, it would have greatly benefitted young working families, as well as our economy by allowing parents to enter or stay in the workforce.
But one lawmaker made it clear in his debate he had no interest in voting for a bill that made “it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home.”
Voting to accept that grant was a no-brainer, and it would have been a major investment in our most precious resource: our children. That money would have actually been the second distribution from the federal Preschool Development Grants Program. We accepted the first $6 million in 2020, and saw great success in our local communities. Both of our districts have early learning collaboratives — the Kendrick-Julietta and Pocatello-Chubbuck preschools — that directly benefited.
If given the opportunity, we’d continue to vote in favor of it, and won’t stop fighting for quality public education at every level, particularly for our youngest learners. As elected officials, we represent the people of Idaho, not the interests of extremist groups trying to destroy our state, like the IFF. No amount of bullying or intimidation will ever change that.