Effects of preschool funding cuts could be far reaching - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Effects of preschool funding cuts could be far reaching

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WATERLOO (KWWL)-- The Iowa legislature is currently debating a bill that would cut all funds for voluntary preschool.  The program provides funding for low income families to send their four year olds to school

The impact of the proposed funding cut could be wide-ranging.  325 school districts across the state receive state funding for voluntary four year old preschool, amounting to $64 million this school year.  Without that money, some schools could be forced to reduce services or even close.

Immanuel Lutheran is one of a handful of centers that partners with the Waterloo Community School District to provide voluntary preschool to four year olds.  Some of the parents of these students pay for the classes, while others are supported by state funding.  But if the bill before the state legislature to slash that funding is approved, some families may no longer be able to send their kids to preschool.  That's because of the 150-plus state supported students in Waterloo…

"About a third of those are on free and reduced lunch.  We know that there would be others within that group who would not be able to afford to pay a full price themselves for preschool.  So we know that it's a tremendous asset to those families to have this available," said Sharon Miller with Waterloo Community Schools.

Partner agencies like Immanuel Lutheran may be able to survive with enough students whose parents pay for them.  But the Waterloo School District's preschool center in Elk Run includes primarily state funded students.  So if that money goes away, it would not have another funding source to stay afloat. 

"That would certainly be a logical conclusion.  We see it as a real investment in the future of these kids, the future of our community, and the future of our state.  We're trying to get more kids in preschool, not fewer," Miller said.

Ultimately if the cuts go through, students stand to suffer.  The Waterloo District says it notices a big improvement in the social and academic abilities of students who have attended preschool.

Preschools also say that all students will see an impact if state funding is dropped.  That's because state dollars not only support added enrollment of low-income students, but schools can also use some of that money to purchase things like books, craft supplies, and even playground equipment.

In Iowa, the preschool funding cuts were introduced by Republican Governor Terry Branstad, but they're largely opposed by state Democrats.   But a recent report by the Pew Center found that in many other states, the issue of preschool funding is not a partisan issue.  On average, other states have increased funding for pre-K programs by just more than one percent this year.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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