The keynote speaker at Governor Branstad’s “education summit” this summer says it’s “not smart” to cut spending on preschool. Branstad and Republicans in the legislature want to end state-funded preschool for all four-year-olds in Iowa.

Instead, Branstad has proposed a system that would provide vouchers to low-income parents who want to send their kids to preschool, but Arne Duncan, the U.S. Education Secretary, says all children need preschool. “I simply think we can’t win the future by cheating children at the starting line,” Duncan said during a news conference in April.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says Branstad’s voucher system for low-income parents doesn’t cheat children. “It’s a compromise, but what we’re doing is we’re saying…we can’t fund K-12, so we need to make sure that we have adequate funding for that,” Reynolds says.

“We need to acknowledge how important preschool is, but…we think it’s right for people who have the funds to pay a portion of that.”

State funding for preschool is among the unresolved issues of the 2011 legislative session, as Democrats in the Senate oppose cutting state funding for all four-year-olds. Branstad is attending a National Governors Association meeting on education and will return to the state tonight.