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Lawmakers Meet with Early-Childhood Education Advocates at Capitol

Early-education advocates of all stripes met with legislators in informational meetings at the Capitol on Wednesday. (joevare/Flickr)
Early-education advocates of all stripes met with legislators in informational meetings at the Capitol on Wednesday. (joevare/Flickr)
February 23, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – Early-childhood education advocates of all stripes, including the lieutenant governor, educators, members of the military and business leaders, met with the Idaho House and Senate education committees in two informational meetings on Wednesday. Although advocates are unlikely to see a bill aimed at early education, such as universal pre-school, the meeting was an opportunity to provide legislators with data and a variety of aspects to the topic.

Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children executive director and organizer of the event Beth Oppenheimer, says the meetings didn't just focus on preschool and that educating young children is not one-size-fits-all.

"How can we support parents who are at home?" she asked. "How can we improve the quality of child-care programs who are serving as our preschool programs? Whether it's an at-home program or out-of-home program, there are a variety of ways that we can do this, but we need to start somewhere."

Idaho is one of six states that does not put state money into preschool. Presenters spoke about children's higher achievement as students when they have early-education opportunities, especially children who come from low-income households and may have limited opportunities.

Oppenheimer says members of the justice field provided an interesting angle and data showing that many future criminal offenders were not prepared for school, and advocated for earlier education to help reduce crime.

"Hearing from judges and hearing from prosecuting attorneys and showing the impact that they see and showing that, 'Look, if we could invest in early-childhood education and provide more opportunities, we're not going to be seeing as many people who come through their systems as they do now,'" she said.

Oppenheimer says early-childhood education can help close the achievement gap for children entering kindergarten, where varying levels of education can hinder time in the classroom.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID