Governor Tom Vilsack will ask legislators in January to spend more state money on preschool programs. “One may ask ‘Where is the money going to come from?’ well, I would suggest to you it is a priority and in your family budgets, in your business budgets, in your state budget, priorities get funded,” Vilsack says. “If something has to give, so be it.” Vilsack’s vow comes after he asked for and got over 20 million new state tax dollars for an early childhood initiative this past spring. Vilsack says his preschool initiative “is not a one-year wonder.” “For us to maintain the freedoms and liberties we enjoy, for us to continue to have the quality of life that sometimes we take for granted, there is no more important investment for this country to make,” Vilsack says. He says preschool shouldn’t just be for really poor kids who qualify for government-financed “Head Start” or for really rich kids whose parents can afford to pay for preschool. The governor says for the U.S. to retain its edge in the world market, the imagination of all American kids must continue to be fostered and that must start in preschool. “That is where the seeds of innovation and creativity are planted,” Vilsack says. Vilsack says there are other benefits to society, as studies show kids who went to preschool end up being better parents, are less likely to commit a crime and are less likely to wind up in remedial or special ed classes. “This state of Iowa has to be a leader in this effort (to boost preschool education),” Vilsack says. “There are several states that have done more than we have done, but we are catching up.” Vilsack isn’t ready to outline the details of his newest preschool spending initiative, but he indicates part of the new money he’ll ask for will be spent trying to boost the salaries of preschool teachers. “A lot of us talk about the importance of youngsters…yet we are content to allow basically minimum wage to be paid to those who care for our children,” Vilsack says. Vilsack made his comments this (Thursday) morning during a speech at forum the Iowa Business Council sponsored to discuss the status of early childhood education.
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