Idaho has an opportunity to improve our children’s ability to read and write, support working mothers and create an early-childhood education system we in Idaho are sorely missing. This year, Idaho received a $6 million grant from the Trump administration to improve our early-childhood education system. Sens. Crapo and Risch fought hard for an Idaho-based solution—not something you’d find in Seattle or New York City, but one uniquely designed for Idaho.
Despite all the hard work of Sens. Risch and Crapo to help families in this state, a few misguided members of the state Legislature parroting misinformation have tried to derail this funding. It’s sad but true. Instead of helping young children develop needed skills and supporting working moms by appropriating the funding for this grant, a small, fearmongering minority has tried to stop it. They’re trying to put their narrow ideological agenda before the working moms, families and young children in this state.
This grant is focused on effectively coordinating early-childhood education programs, engaging parents and families and preparing children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Idaho’s initial PDG grant (2020) was successfully directed and managed by the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC). Activities in the first year included developing a system of Early Learning Collaboratives, which are local-level advisory groups setting strategic direction for early learning in Idaho communities and performing a statewide needs assessment. This effort, spearheaded by Idaho AEYC, has been celebrated for its bottom-up approach and local-level engagement.
Idaho AEYC applied for the grant renewal to continue the work of providing communities the support they need to improve access to early learning opportunities and resources.
The Early Learning Collaboratives are a key ingredient to serving the unique needs of families with young children throughout Idaho. These partnerships are driven by dedicated local leaders who have put immense work into improving their communities and creating localized solutions specific to their corner of our great state. Idaho AEYC serves as an organizer, connector and resource assisting these communities in reaching objectives they set themselves.
Idaho AEYC has been active in Idaho for over 20 years serving as a resource for parents, early learning professionals and policymakers. Idaho AEYC is a separate entity from its national affiliate. We are governed by our own board, made up of Idahoans from across the state. Furthermore, the most recent fabrications published about funding for this grant going to a California-based nonprofit called the Early Learning Institute are entirely false. Idaho AEYC simply has a program with a similar name. The two are completely unrelated. Misinformation such as this is incredibly damaging to Idaho’s families.
Fear is being used as currency to attempt to undermine the value this appropriation brings to Idaho’s future. Idaho AEYC is a reputable, nonpartisan, nonprofit 501 (c)(3) dedicated to improving the quality and access to childcare and to raising awareness about the importance of early education. Idaho’s residents and elected officials know better than to believe the misinformation being shared by naysayers.
Thousands of people from across the state have reached out to express their dismay that early-childhood education funding is being cast as a negative for the state. In 2018, a statewide opinion poll conducted by Moore Research indicated that early-childhood education is a unifying issue for Idahoans. Eighty-five percent of voters and 91% of parents with children 5 or younger believe access to quality, affordable early-childhood education resources is important. I encourage our elected officials to represent the people of Idaho, not special interest lobbying groups who have to invent information in order to make a point. Our kids are depending on your support.
Beth Oppenheimer is executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.