It’s looking like the Legislature will favor a budget that doesn’t wipe out funding for early education, and for that preschoolers and preschool advocates are thankful.
Eleven preschoolers from Taku Tots and Douglas Childcare were at the Alaska State Capitol Friday morning to pass out thank-you cards in the wake of the House of Representative’s proposed budget, and the Senate’s consideration of its budget.
Joy Lyon, executive director for Southeast Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children, said the House budget leaves funding for pre-kindergarten programs at last year’s level.
That is a stark contrast to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget that would cut state spending on the programs entirely, Lyon said, and to her it comes as a relief.
“It’s heartbreaking to think about telling kids you don’t get your books anymore,” she said. “The little bit of support we provide in those early years just makes such a difference.”
The thank-you cards were a follow-up to valentines, which children passed out to legislators in February. Those earlier cards encouraged legislators to provide state funding for pre-K programs.
Jamie Shanley, owner of Taku Tots, and Lyon said the goal of those in-person appearances is to make sure pre-K enrollees are viewed as people and not statistics or line item numbers.
“Having the legislators see the young faces here is why it’s important,” Lyon said.
Shanley and Lyon said spending on early child care is important because it is a time of rapid development for children.
“Look at the first five years of life,” Lyon said. “It’s building the foundation of life. It’s building character.”
While the Legislature is poised to settle on a budget proposal that Lyon would find palatable, it would still need approval from the governor.
“We’re just going to go all out to encourage the governor to do the right thing for the children,” Lyon said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.