I read an interesting article in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier about Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s desire to replace the statewide voluntary preschool program that is currently being funded by the state aid formula at around $3500/per student with a voucher program that would assist families who earn less than 250-300% of the poverty level with a sliding fee scale.
This makes sense. Not only would it help reduce the state’s bloated education budget by cutting preschool spending by 39% ($70 million to $43 million) it would also give parents greater choice should they choose to utilize the program. Also those who make more than income parameters should be able to pay for preschool themselves. Governor Branstad in his budget address last week said:
In addition, I cannot leave the education discussion without renewing my commitment to ensure that every Iowa child has access to quality preschool.
This budget proposes a $43 million annual investment in providing preschool assistance to those families in greatest need.
Research shows preschool investments have the most long-lasting impact on children who come from homes with financial need. As such, our program will be targeted to those families and will give parents flexibility to choose the preschool environment that best meets their needs.
But we cannot do this alone, all across this state parents, private donors and caring organizations have for years partnered with preschool providers to ensure access. I am happy to have the state of Iowa join them—as a partner, not as the sole provider.
I personally believe that preschool education is best done at home and would rather see government out of it all together. I do like his program idea, however, as it does give parents a greater choice – whether to participate or not, and if so, if they need financial assistance, to utilize those dollars in the educational environment that best suites them. It is certainly better than our current situation which doesn’t give choice to parents in need and puts a strain on private and church-based preschools.
Then the specter of “quality assurance” rears its ugly head in the article.
Later, he also told reporters that although the new plan wouldn’t necessarily require a certified teacher in each classroom, which the current program does, he would like to see teachers have a college degree and some other qualifications, which he didn’t specify.
"We want to make sure they’re competent and provide a quality education," he said.
Supporters of the current system say its quality standards would be lost by moving to a voucher system.
How exactly would quality be lost amid moving to a voucher system? Oh, that’s right they’d lose control.
Public school control does not equal quality control. What evidence is there to back that up? None. There is evidence to the contrary however.
Governor Branstad’s preschool plan is one in which I personally would love to see applied in some capacity (with tweaks) with K-12 system as well. I think Governor Branstad is correct when he said that parents “ought to have skin in the game.” I can just picture teacher’s unions howling about that, but that is a subject that is beyond the purview of this particular post.
Anyway, I commend Governor Branstad on working to reduce the budget while giving parents more choice.
Originally posted at American Principles in Action.