Boise Not Only Idaho City With Successful Preschool Program

IDAHO CITY, Idaho – Boise State University's preschool pilot program in Boise has underscored the importance of early education, but the city isn't the only one in Idaho offering affordable access to preschool.

In fact, some other cities have been doing it for much longer.

For 18 years, every child in the Basin School District, which includes Idaho City, has been able to attend preschool.

Jamie Pilkerton is principal of Basin Elementary and was integral to starting the district's program.

She says this year 92 percent of her third-graders scored a three on the Idaho Reading Indicator, meaning they are reading at grade level. The two students who didn't also didn't attend the preschool program.

"So when we look over a longer period of time, the data becomes more compelling than even just those snapshots of kindergarten," she points out.

Pilkerton says the program benefits children with learning disabilities as well. Because they are identified earlier, they're able to get the help they need earlier.

Idaho is one of six states that doesn't fund preschool.

Beth Woodruff is special education director for Basin School District and a high school teacher. She also was integral in establishing the preschool program there.

Woodruff says the positives of the program go far beyond education. Children are better behaved. Even parents are more supportive.

"There's more team building with the parents in solving problems in an effective manner,” she states. “And I don't even know how to take the data on that."

Just outside Boise, United Way's P16 Caldwell Education Project has been helping students from low-income families with access to preschool for the last seven years.

Nora Carpenter, president and CEO of United Way of Treasure Valley, says the boost from preschool is simply startling.

She says teaching children to read and understand numbers early gives them a powerful tool.

"They're doing that child a lifelong favor,” she stresses. “So, until we have a statewide system that supports preschool, it's up to each and every one of us to help be that educator."

Organizations such as the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children are leading efforts to bring preschool statewide.