Expand Preschool Funding

The Community Legislative Action Team recommends an increase in weighted funding in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP) for children living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

Background

  • The Des Moines Public School district manages various early education programs, funded by a variety of sources, including Head Start, Shared Visions, and the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP).
  • The SWVPP was established in 2007 to provide 10 hours per week of early education to all four year-old children in Iowa.
  • During the first four years of the program, the state funded students at .6 per pupil cost for one full-time student. In the 2011-2012 school year, the funding allocation was decreased to .5 per pupil cost for one full-time student. While funding has decreased, costs for the program continue to rise.
  • Iowa has one of the highest rates in the nation of households with all available parents working outside of the home.
  • Providing only 10 hours per week of early learning programming presents challenges to parents having to secure an environment to care for their children during the remaining hours of the week while they work.
  • One in six Iowa children lives in poverty.
  • Preschool funding has limitations and does not cover costs such as physical buildings, transportation, food, interpretation and translation services, or support staff.

Why This is a Good Investment

  • Supports a Child’s Educational Success. 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.
  • A Solid Return on Investment. Research found that for every $1 spent on a quality early learning environments, $7 are saved in the long term on expenditures such as special education, high school dropouts, juvenile and criminal justice, and social welfare programs.

Why This is Urgent

Our data shows that children who attend preschool are better prepared for kindergarten than those who do not, both academically and socially. Only 28% of kindergarten students who did not attend preschool met Fall kindergarten reading assessment benchmarks. When the child is coming from a family living in or near poverty, that number dropped to 23%. On the other hand, if a child attends preschool, they are more than twice as likely to meet reading benchmarks. Children in poverty are almost three-times as likely to meet the benchmarks. Preschool evens the playing field for students now! The time children spend in preschool programs is used to develop a foundation for a lifetime of learning – and that matters!