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Iowa Legislators Debate Value of State Pre-K

As I reported earlier this month, post-election changes to Iowa's political landscape could affect the state's voluntary, universal pre-K program. Right after the elections, advocates I spoke with were hopeful that newly elected Republican lawmakers would moderate their opposition to universal state pre-K in the face of its popularity with constituents.

Recent news indicates otherwise. At a Dec. 15 forum sponsored by IowaPolitics.com, Republican state legislative leaders questioned the value of the state's voluntary, universal pre-K program, which advocates have looked to as a national model. You can see the full story here; read on for highlights.

"It's very, very questionable where there is any benefit," said Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, a Republican. He favored cutting the program and using any remaining funds to give parents vouchers for preschool tuition.

Republican Rep. Linda Upmeyer, who will be the majority leader in the House, also criticized the subsidized program, citing both budget pressure and research showing that effects of preschool fade out in the early elementary grades. "The research shows that by about second or third, fourth grade, you cannot tell the difference between a child that has preschool and a child that does not," she said.

Democratic leaders at the event pledged to protect the program. "I think it's a great program and I don't see us making many changes there," said Senate President Jack Kibbie. For more of the debate, see this Des Moines Register story.

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