Explaining Why Idaho Doesn't Have Public Preschool

Idaho is one of 10 states that doesn't offer public preschool, although two of those states are currently experimenting with pilot programs.

Idaho lawmakers have long wrestled over whether to provide a public education to preschool-aged children. Idaho's conservative majority has resisted.

But now, the debate could be revived because a freshman Democratic lawmaker has begun working on a plan to implement public pre-k. 

P-16 preschool class Caldwell
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho is one of five states that doesn’t fund preschool. Most other states require their school districts to provide pre-kindergarten, or pre-K. Now education officials are reviewing the results of a test study that measures the impact of preschool in one Boise neighborhood.


Whittier School Students Kids Buses
Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

The results of an annual survey, released this week, show the majority of Treasure Valley high school students plan to go onto college, but not all of them achieve that goal. 

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

An informational hearing at the state capitol Wednesday centered on early childhood education.

The Senate Education Committee was scheduled to only hear about kindergarten and other early education resources for 20 minutes. However, questions from senators pushed the meeting to close to an hour.

The belief that with hard work, prosperity and success are open to everyone, is at the heart of our national identity. Yet, according to today’s guest, Robert Putnam, the gap between those who have the chance to forge a better future, and those who are being left behind, is getting wider. As a result “our kids,” America’s poorest among them, are experiencing a transformation of American society that comes at a cost to every one of us.

Kyle Green / Idaho Statesman

Numbers from the Economic Policy Institute show that the average Idaho family spends about $7,200 a year for infant child care and $6,900 a year for preschool-aged children. The Idaho Statesman reports that's more than a year's tuition at a public college.

Katy Lightfield told the Boise newspaper that she and her husband expected the $30,000 pay cut they took when they moved from Texas to Idaho. But they were surprised to find that child care costs are the same between the two states.

screengrab aecf.org

The Annie E. Casey Foundation this week released its annual Kids Count report on child well-being. Idaho ranked 22nd out of the 50 states. But Idaho is not really in the middle of the pack when you break that ranking down into its individual components. In some measures, the state’s children have it much better than their peers in other states, and in some they have it much worse.

Tim Lauer / Flickr Creative Commons

The Nampa school district will offer full-day, every-day kindergarten classes at some elementary schools in the fall.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that enrollment is open for full-time kindergarten at three Nampa-area schools.

District officials say full-day kindergarten classes will allow teachers to focus on developing social skills and participation as well as the academic lessons shorter schedules focus on.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation this week released its annual Kids Count Data Book, which examines children’s well being across the country.

The 2015 numbers show Idaho continues to lag in pre-school offerings.

Nearly 70 percent of children don’t attend school until kindergarten. That’s something that concerns Idaho Kids Count Director Lauren Necochea.

This interview was broadcast first in January of 2013.

A child who heads off to kindergarten without knowing his colors or shapes may be considered academically unprepared for school.  But what if those measures mattered less, and the child's character mattered more?

Corie Howell / Flickr Creative Commons

Boise State University’s Andrus Center for Public  Policy and the University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy have teamed up to host a conference on early childhood education in Idaho. It’s Monday at Garden City’s Riverside Hotel.  

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

On Monday, two Idaho Republicans will tiptoe into a public preschool debate the state's Legislature hasn't been willing to confront. Idaho is one of 10 states without public preschool.

Reps. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, and Christy Perry, R-Nampa, are introducing a preschool pilot program they're calling "kindergarten preparedness."

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The city of Boise and the Boise School District are teaming up to offer preschool as part of the city's Vista Neighborhood Project pilot program. Over a number of years, the city is putting several million dollars into this one part of town in hopes of transforming the relatively-poor neighborhood.

Diana Lachiondo with Boise’s mayor’s office says research shows preschool is good for communities.

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