Saturday morning, the Community Legislative Action Team (CLAT) held their first event, which ended up being scheduled opposite the World Cup and in 10-degree weather. Still, legislators and supporters came to Jesse Franklin Taylor Learning Center to have coffee and discuss one of the most important issues in Iowa education today — access to preschool.
Interim Superintendent Matt Smith presented briefly on the budget and then drilled down on the district’s main priority. CLAT is asking for the Iowa legislature to approve an increase in weighted funding in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP) for children living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
“Our data shows that children who attend preschool are better prepared for elementary school than those who do not, both academically and socially,” said Interim Superintendent Matt Smith.
Only 24% of kindergarten students who did not attend preschool met Fall kindergarten reading assessment benchmarks. Children who do not attend preschool continue to lag behind their classmates through 5th grade.
“The State of Iowa needs to level the playing field and give every Iowa family the choice to access preschool – a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning,” Smith said.
Iowa legislators, including senators Janet Peterson and Sarah Trone Garriott, and representatives Ako Abdul Samad, Austin Baeth, Mary Madison, Heather Matson, and Megan L. Srinivas, answered questions from staff, parents and community members in attendance. A few called out for support on social media.
“This morning at @DMschools forum with legislators, investing in early childhood education equals lifelong benefit. If we truly want to reform public education in a way that actually helps children, families, and the entire community—we need to increase pre-k funding.” – Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott.
“Great conversation at the @DMschools Community Legislative Action Team meeting on the importance of legislation to expand preschool to best support our kids. This is a win-win for every family, no matter what school district you’re in.” – Rep. Heather Matson.
Here are a few more reasons why preschool is a good investment in Iowa:
- Providing a high-quality early learning environment for children establishes a solid foundation that enables children to start school ready to learn. Without a quality early learning experience, children can start school up to 18 months behind their peers.
- DMPS data shows that students who attend preschool are more likely to meet their kindergarten through 5th grade literacy and math benchmarks.
- Research found that for every $1 spent on a quality early learning environment, $17 are saved on long-term expenditures such as special education, high school dropouts, juvenile and criminal justice, and social welfare programs.
- Iowa has more jobs than people in the workforce. When students are supported in a half-day or full-day preschool program with childcare, parents/caregivers who want to return to work can do so. That’s good for Iowa’s economy.
The CLAT DMPS parent team organized the coffee and invited legislators to the meeting. They are passionate about community members understanding the need for preschool funding and engaging lawmakers to convince them to act.
“We have to hear how public education is important to each person, and how to build together to realize how public education in the state impacts our work force and everyday well-being,” said CLAT organizer and DMPS parent Crystal Patterson. “Take your message out to your community!”
If you would like to get involved and help DMPS support an increase in preschool funding for students living in or near poverty, click here to sign up to receive CLAT emails. You can also follow them on Facebook, here.