Kindergarten Education Association says it supports early learning preschool
The Kindergarden Education Association is calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation to expand preschool education in the state.
In a letter to Gov.
Bill Haslam, the group wrote that the state has a “moral obligation” to support preschool education, as evidenced by the number of preschoolers in the system.
“This is especially true of children with disabilities who are more likely to be placed in preschool because of the state’s pre-K programs, which are highly effective in helping them succeed academically and emotionally,” the letter said.
The group, which has chapters in four states, said the state is one of the top 20 for preschoolers per capita.
“It’s not a question of whether you want to have more preschools.
It’s a question about whether you have the right approach to expand pre-k,” said John Hahn, executive director of the association.
Hahn said it’s clear from the results that the program is working.
“There are more kids in preschool than there are in kindergarten,” he said.
“We’ve seen a tremendous improvement in outcomes for preschool students.”
The state is on track to reach its goal of providing 3,000 preschoolers by 2025, but it still needs to add 5,000 new preschoolers to reach the goal.
The letter also noted that preschool enrollment has been steadily rising for the past few years, with enrollment growing at a rate of more than 9 percent a year.
“If we don’t do something to expand early education, we’re going to see preschool kids who are getting older and who are less able to get into pre- and post-K who are going to be in a lot of trouble, which is a recipe for a very difficult childhood,” Hahn said.
He said the current policy “doesn’t do much to help kids who have special needs.”
State Department of Education spokesperson Amy Kneebone said the department is supportive of the organization’s call for a statewide preschool expansion and believes that the initiative will benefit the state and the public at large.
“The Department of State is committed to supporting a statewide kindergarten program, and supports the Governor’s efforts to make that happen,” Kneerbe said.
Haviland is also pushing for the state to create a preschool tax credit, which would pay for preschools in all 50 states.
The state already has a tax credit for preschool.
Hassan said he supports the tax credit and hopes the governor will include it in a package he is proposing.
The state’s tax credit program would also provide additional funding for preschool, including for students who need a special education teacher.
Hathaway has said that he wants to expand the program statewide to meet rising enrollment rates and that the governor should be supporting the effort.
Hansen, however, said it will take some time for lawmakers to come to a decision on a preschool expansion.
“I’m hopeful that in the end, we’ll get something that will make sense for all of our children,” he told reporters.
The governor said the initiative would help students with special needs and that he would “make sure the state knows that we’re a leader in the country.”