The Iowa Senate has given final legislative approval to a 15-million dollar preschool program, sending the measure on to the governor for his approval. The bill would provide grants to school districts that begin offering four-year-olds at least 10 hours of classroom time each week with a qualified teacher. Kids attending in-home daycare could go to a local elementary school for those 10 hours, or the teacher could work out of an existing preschool.
Senator Staci Appel, a Democrat from Ackworth, says either way, the move will help shrink the so-called "achievement" gap. "We’ve got kids coming into kindergarten who can read at a first and second grade reading level, and then we have children coming in that don’t know what their last name is, can’t tell you what color they have on and that’s a huge achievement gap that no teacher can shrink," Apple says. "I’m hoping that this early childhood program will help do that."
Under the bill, state funding for preschool programs would grow to 60-million dollars within four years. Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, calls that wasteful and he suggests it contradicts research from North Carolina. "They have examined student achievement or readiness of those young people who had gone to a certified teacher with the most advanced degrees compared to a teacher who had a high school education," McKinley says. "They could show virtually no difference (in preschoolers achievement), so we have locked out of the marketplace a whole lot of highly-qualified people."
The Iowa Senate voted 36 to 14 to provide grants to preschool programs — with certified teachers.