Advocates gather in Capitol to push for state investment in early education

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On the heels of a new report showing widespread support among voters for state investment in preschool, advocates took to the Capitol Wednesday to illustrate the importance of high-quality early learning.

Young children from local early learning programs and parents with their children gathered in the Rotunda for BLOCK Fest®, an interactive exhibit developed in Idaho that demonstrates the importance of early learning through play. Rotating through stations featuring blocks of different sizes, children created patterns, built structures and told stories.

“Young children learn through play. They need hands-on experiences to develop the early math, literacy and social skills needed to excel later in life,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children. “Block play is just one example of the kinds of active learning experiences that should be a part of every early learning program.”

Idaho voters and parents recognize that these kinds of experiences are crucial for a child’s brain development, according to a report released last month by the public opinion research firm Moore Information and Idaho AEYC. Moore Information conducted a total of 509 interviews for the survey – 406 among a representative sample of registered voters statewide in Idaho, plus an oversample of 103 parents of children age 5 or younger. Nearly seven in ten of the voters and parents surveyed believe the state of Idaho should be doing more to ensure that children begin kindergarten with the knowledge and skills they need to do their best in school. Seventy-six percent of voters and 80% of parents said they support state investments in preschool.

“Idaho remains one of a handful of states that does not invest in preschool options for children 3 to 5 years old, and teachers statewide continue to see children entering kindergarten without the foundational skills they need to succeed,” Oppenheimer said. “We need quality, affordable, voluntary preschool options for Idaho families so that children can excel throughout school and throughout life.”

This is the fourth year that Idaho AEYC has hosted an Early Learning Legislative Day at the Capitol. The nonprofit was joined by Idaho Voices for Children, the Idaho Head Start Association, the Twiga Foundation, the Idaho Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Building Villages and the Idaho Commission for Libraries’ Read to Me program.