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Should Idaho have public preschools?

Should Idaho have public preschool?

Idaho - Idaho is one of a handful of states that do not have any public preschool.

"We know that Idaho is regularly kind of near the bottom of the heap in terms of access to preschool and nursery school for our young children. Close to 60 percent of Bonneville County's 3- and 4-year-olds are not enrolled in any type of preschool, so we just don't know if they have access to those learning opportunities or not," said Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Kids Count.

Trudy Potter, owner of Little People's Academy, said that requiring preschool may not be popular, because children's learning processes at ages 3 and 4 are so individual, and families may want to have more control over it.

"What my main focus is, is getting these children ready when they hit the public schools. It starts as a three year old, they have to start developing their little hand muscles, they have to learn how to outline, how to color, how to cut, lots of listening and following directions," said Potter.

Those are the standards she has in place, and state Rep. Hy Kloc says standards could be part of the preschool conversation.

"Now Common Core is a great change to the education system, but I think if you want to reach some of the goals by third grade, you have to reach children before they even get in to kindergarten," said Kloc.

That's why he is proposing legislation that would allow a study of effectiveness of preschool through a pilot program.

"The interesting thing about this pilot program is the public-private partnership, where the private sector will put up 55 percent of the operating budget, and the public sector will put up 45 percent. So this is really, truly a partnership with one objective in mind, and that is to help kids further themselves in school," Kloc said.

"Another thing an early start does, it really gives them a good self-esteem, and if they are going to a classroom and saying wow I'm smart, I'm good, I can do this, you have already won the battle," said Potter.

Previous preschool bills have failed, but Rep. Kloc believes this one is different because it is focused on a study, rather than implementing new programs. If the legislation does pass, Kloc says the earliest it could happen is 2015.  

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