Guest Blog – Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb & Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking – A Big Step for Early Childhood Education in Idaho

Great news for Idaho parents and students regarding Early Childhood Education. Thanks to the successful collaboration of a bi-partisan committee of stakeholders convened over the summer and the support of Governor Brad Little, Idaho is the recipient of a $3.3 million Federal Preschool Development Grant. After attending an early education learning summit through Hunt Institute, we were able to form a bipartisan coalition that was focused on researching pre-k in Idaho. The grant is focused on strengthening existing early childhood education. Key components of the grant are research, planning, collaboration and coordination. Idaho is one of six states to be awarded funding for this grant.

The Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) will take the lead in administration of the grant. The Idaho legislature, state and local agencies, and partners will be working closely with Idaho AEYC to ensure that our students are prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn, grow and develop. The grant will support a comprehensive approach which will include identification of resources and support for parents, students, educators and a wide variety of public and private entities. Many of these resources exist today but are not easily accessible to parents and educators.

Idaho families continue to express their desire for early learning options. This grant will provide the funding to investigate the wide variety of resources available, best practices and opportunities for innovation. Our hope is to immediately create a repository that lists all resources and best practices available to new parents. After visiting with hospitals, we are pleased that doctors and nurses have seen the need to have a place we can refer new parents who are looking for early education guidance. The structure of the grant is well defined and the result of extensive research, preparation and rigorous attention to the multiplicity of needs expressed by Idaho educators, families and legislators.

In addition to connecting parents with existing resources, we want to take a comprehensive look at what works, what doesn’t work, and how programs are funded. It is an opportunity to look at all existing programs, measure effectiveness and find room for improvement. This grant will also give parents, educators and children more tools to strengthen language and literacy prior to starting kindergarten. The sooner our children are exposed to a rich literacy experience the better chance they have to be proficient by the third grade.

Specific grant activities and comprehensive strategies for accomplishment of each have been developed. Activities are identified as follows:
Activity One: Statewide Needs Assessment Plan
Activity Two: Statewide Strategic Plan
Activity Three: Maximizing Parental Choice and Knowledge
Activity Four: Sharing Best Practices for Early Childhood Education
Activity Five: Improving Overall Quality of Early Childhood Care and Education

Without doubt, receipt of this grant and the wealth of knowledge gained will provide Idaho with a historical opportunity to make strategic investments in the improvement of early childhood education delivery and the trajectory of our children’s education. It is time for Idaho to make an investment in early childhood learning. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us.

-Senator Janie Ward-Engelking/(D-Boise) and Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb/(D-Boise)