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Fri, February 14, 2014

Commentary: Iowa Senator Bill Dotzler

Research has shown that all kids can benefit from a good preschool education.

Since 2007, Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program has worked to make preschool available to all students from all backgrounds. School districts collaborate with a variety of state, federal and community partners, including Head Start and Shared Visions, as well as faith-based, private and non-profit preschools.

Prior to the program—when Iowa targeted preschool to certain families or to children with disabilities—only 19 percent of three- and four-year-old kids in Iowa received a high-quality preschool education. By the fall of 2012, almost 21,500 Iowa preschoolers (55 percent) in 314 school districts were getting the benefits of the statewide preschool initiative, which provides at least 10 hours per week of age-appropriate instruction. Cost to the state is approximately $60 million.

Two recent reports show positive results for students who attend the state preschool classes. For example, fewer students from low-income families who attend the state preschool require intensive intervention after they enter kindergarten. The children were less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, need special education or get into trouble with the law than those who didn't get a good preschool education.

The most obvious problem with Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program is that not everybody attends. That's why the Senate Education Committee is working on legislation to ensure universal access to preschool for all four-year-olds in Iowa (Senate Study Bill 3155).

As we work on this legislation at the Statehouse in the coming weeks, I want to know what local parents and educators think. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions.

To see more about the success of Iowa's preschool effort, check out the May 2013 fact sheet from the Iowa Department of Education. In addition, the website for the Child & Family Policy Center has their findings on the effectiveness of Iowa's statewide preschool program.

To contact Senator Dotzler during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at home at 319-296-2947. E-mail him at bill.dotzler@legis.iowa.gov

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