The co-chair of the Iowa Business Council says improving the quality and availability of preschool in Iowa is the “biggest” economic development issue facing the state today. Max Phillips, the Iowa president of Qwest who is co-chair of the Iowa Business Council, says the group’s members started pressing state policymakers for action on the issue last year. Phillips says the Iowa Business Council is a “non-partisan” group that represents the 23 largest businesses in the state. Those businesses employ 150-thousand Iowans. The Council was successful in helping persuade the 2005 Iowa Legislature to spend over 20 million more state tax dollars on preschool. “There needs to be a greater look and more attention on early childhood education,” Phillips says.He says it’s a debate about “today and tomorrow” and the Iowa Business Council believes “this is the biggest economic development issue and opportunity facing the state of Iowa.” Phillips says it’s especially critical since 77 percent of the Iowa parents who have kids under the age of six are working, and need quality childcare.According to Phillips, every dollar that’s invested in preschool is multiplied and provides economic benefits to the community and to the businesses in that community. On Thursday, Phillips helped lead a forum in Des Moines that focused on the issue. “The Business Council is committed to try to further and encourage the debate and we’re looking for partners,” Philips said. The business group held a similar event on Tuesday in Iowa City.
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