Gov. Chet Culver and many state legislators proudly announced recently that fifty-two school districts will receive state funds next school year under a $60 million plan to make preschool programs available to most 4-year-olds in Iowa.
Under the measure passed last session by the Legislature, the state will allocate $15 million for each of the next four years to boost preschool offerings. Other school districts may apply for funding in the remaining three years of the program.
According to the official announcement, the plan will make preschool programs available to more than 90 percent of the state's 4 year olds. That doesn't mean that 90 percent of 4 year olds attend preschool since it's voluntary. Parents aren't required to send children to preschool.
So if it is available for over 90 percent of 4 year olds, that means it is not available to some 4 year olds. Something under 10 percent of parents of preschool-age children simply don't have the option of preschool. Why should these parents and their children be deprived of an important opportunity during a time that is increasingly regarded as a crucial period of brain development.
In this area, the Cherokee School District was approved for a preschool grant application but Aurelia was not.
If preschool is worth funding for most 4 year olds, it is worth funding for all 4 year olds.
The state needs to make the commitment to provide universal and permanent funding for preschool.