Governor unveils new preschool plan - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Governor unveils new preschool plan

DES MOINES (KWWL) -- Governor Terry Branstad unveiled his new preschool program Monday.

Branstad says the state can't afford the current $90 million a year program and his new program cuts the cost by more than half, to $43 million.

"Research shows that investing in a superb preschool program pays off for financially disadvantaged youth by raising academic achievement," said Branstad in a written statement. "By providing all Iowa children the opportunity to attend preschool we will reduce the need for special education services and for children to repeat grades."

Under the new plan, a $3,000 Iowa Preschool Scholarship would be available to help eligible 4-year-olds attend preschool for a minimum of 10 hours a week.

Families would be required to contribute to preschool tuition on a sliding scale based on federal poverty guidelines up to 300 percent of poverty.

Parents will get to choose which private or public preschool they want their child to attend, provided there is space available.

A website would allow parents to enter their zip code to find a participating preschool near their home or work.

Here are some other components of the Iowa Preschool Program plan:

 · Participating private and public programs must meet strong state preschool requirements including providing instruction that meets one of the following: Head Start Performance Standards, National Association of Education of Young Children Standards and Criteria, or Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards.

· A common, comprehensive statewide assessment will measure performance of 4-year-old Iowa Preschool Scholarship recipients and as many other 4-year-olds in preschool as possible. It will guide sound instructional decisions and show whether preschool programs are successful.

· The Iowa Department of Education decides whether private and public preschool programs meet state requirements, monitors quality and collects data.

· School districts register 4-year-olds eligible for Iowa Preschool Scholarships for the private or public preschool their parents choose, collecting proof of income and sending state funding to private programs. This is the case whether or not the district operates its own preschool.

· Early Childhood Iowa is a key partner with public and private preschools and the state in promoting the Iowa Preschool Scholarships. They will receive an annual report from the Iowa Department of Education on Preschool Scholarships and advise the department on promoting collaboration with other programs and services.

· Early Childhood Iowa will strengthen preschool program quality in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Education and Area Education Agencies.

· Private preschools collect the fees parents pay for children receiving Iowa Preschool Scholarships who attend their programs. Public preschools do the same.

Parents will be allowed use pre-tax dollars to pay for their child's preschool under the new plan.

Part of the $43.6 million in funding will pay for three oversight positions, the statewide assessment and the state website and the promotion of preschool in general.

Tonight on the KWWL News at 5 and 6, Nikki Newbrough talks to a local preschool director about the new plan.

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