Terry Branstad, the Republican candidate for governor, says he told administrators from the state’s eight largest schools districts that he’s willing to consider a variety of options to provide subsidies so children from low-income households can attend preschool, but he’s not willing to see the state subsidize preschool for all students.
Branstad met Friday with the Urban Education Network of Iowa which has lobbied for state money for district-run preschool programs for all students. “We discussed how this could be done. I don’t want to see it done at the expense of K-12 education,” Branstad says. “I want to offer stability and predictability to the funding of K-12 education — and I also recognize that a lot of familes and can afford to and are very willing to.”
Branstad says he wants to devise some kind of “sliding fee” system that would determine the prices parents would pay to enroll their kids in preschools set up by public school districts.
“We want to make sure that every child has the opportunity for preschool, so I think we’ve got to come up with a system,” Branstad says. “And different districts are doing this in different ways so I want to kind of work with people that have some experience in that way to try to come up with the best and most equitable way to provide preschool opportunity. But also not as a new entitlement, free program, but as a program that meets family needs and makes it possible for families that otherwise thought they couldn’t afford it to be able to provide preschool.”
The Urban Education Network represents the Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux City and Waterloo school districts. The network’s eight school districts represents about 25 percent of the students who are enrolled in Iowa public schools. The State of Iowa is providing money for preschool programs, but Governor Culver’s office did not have information about how many four-year-olds are enrolled in the eight school districts which are part of the Urban Education Network and the network’s executive director was unavailable.