Idaho AEYC offers grants to support development of community preschools

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The Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children is offering grants to communities across the state that are committed to expanding access to high-quality preschool programs.

With the launch of its Preschool the Idaho Way project last fall, Idaho AEYC released an in-depth toolkit that guides communities and individuals through the process of creating local early learning collaboratives and developing high-quality preschool opportunities. Now, it is offering grants to support the planning phase outlined in the toolkit. The grants will range from $5,000 to $10,000 and support the development of an actionable plan to create, expand or enhance a community’s preschool programs for children ages 4 to 5. A second grant opportunity, for implementation of those plans, will open later this year.

Communities interested in applying for a Preschool the Idaho Way planning grant are required to attend an informational webinar at either 9:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6. Registration details and the full Request for Proposals are available here. Grant applications are due Sunday, March 31.

Early learning collaboratives are central to the work of Preschool the Idaho Way. Collaboratives draw upon local expertise and build partnerships among community-based programs such as Head Start, in-home and center-based child care providers, faith-based organizations, school districts, parents and other stakeholders.

By pooling resources such as space, transportation and personnel, collaboratives can offer affordable, comprehensive early learning services that otherwise wouldn’t be available to many families. It’s a model that has already been successful in several Idaho communities, including the Caldwell School District; the Basin School District, which includes Idaho City; and the Kendrick Joint School District, which includes Juliaetta.

“We’re excited to start working with communities across the state to develop these collaboratives and these critical preschool opportunities,” said Martin Balben, project director for Preschool the Idaho Way. “Idaho has lagged behind in early education for too long. It’s time to take action and to start developing solutions for Idaho families.”

A report released this month by the Education Commission of the States found that Idaho was one of only four states that did not provide state funding for preschool programs in 2017-18. But recent polling from the Boise State School of Public Service and the public opinion research firm Moore Information indicates that support for state investment in early childhood education is strong among Idahoans.

“Every Idaho child should have access to high-quality early learning programs, regardless of their family’s financial situation,” Balben said. “We hope that by showing what that looks like on a local level, state lawmakers will understand the value of focusing on the early years.” 

Preschool the Idaho Way is generously funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.