Republicans in the House are proposing what they say is a lower-cost, less-red-tape alternative to the 39-MILLION dollar early childhood initiative Governor Tom Vilsack has called for. Representative Royd Chambers, a republican from Sheldon, says the governor “means well,” but his plan is too far reaching. Chambers says the governor’s proposing a “massive increase” in state spending on preschool and new, “government dictates” on preschools. Chambers says there are “well over 12-hundred” preschools in Iowa, the majority of which are privately-run. “There is no data, there is no indication, there is no proof that those privately-run preschools aren’t doing a good job,” Chambers says. He and the other House republicans say they don’t want to force preschools to be accredited by the state and meet minimum requirements, like educational standards. “It just adds to the expense of running these preschools and I don’t think it’s necessary,” Chambers says. The House Republicans say there are already three state agencies that are providing some services to parents of preschoolers, and those programs aren’t coordinated. Chambers says the G-O-P plan would place all those programs under one roof and hire an administrator to run all of ’em. In addition, they propose providing nearly eight million dollars to help low-income parents pay preschool tuition. Governor Tom Vilsack calls the republican plan a start. “I appreciate House Republicans working on this issue,” Vislack says. “I think that proposal represents not a head start but a good start to discussions.” Vilsack says there are 227-thousand Iowa kids under the age of six, and most of their parents find it tough to find quality child care. Vilsack wants to provide higher state subsides to poor Iowans who work but can’t afford child care as well as grants to students who study preschool education. Vilsack also disputes Chambers’ contention that there is no problem with the quality of preschool available in Iowa. “In visiting with people all across the state, there is in fact a lack of access because providers won’t take the children and because parents can’t afford the costs of child care,” Vilsack says. “Our program addresses both.” Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, says Vilsack’s plan is what should be pursued because there’s a need to establish quality standards for child care operations in the state. Gronstal says it’s “pennywise and pound foolish” not to do a better job in early childhood education, since research shows 90 percent of a kid’s intellectual capacity is determined by the age of five. Today, dozens of community college students who’re earning a degree in preschool education and other advocates for preschool care are at the statehouse, asking legislators to back the governor’s approach.
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