Education
6:00 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Preschool Program Wins House Approval

The idea behind House Bill 96 is to help preschoolers prepare for the classroom -- through at-home programs as well as pre-K programs. The bill is headed to the Senate after passing the House on Tuesday.
Credit Tasha Cook

The Utah House threw its support behind new results-based programs to boost early-childhood education. It’s a concept backed by leaders of both parties.  

Republican Rep. Greg Hughes of Draper says all Utahns have a stake in making sure that all children get a good start at school – even before they’re in kindergarten. His bill calls for investors to foot the bill for expanding early education programs like those in the Park City and Granite School districts. Hughes says the $5 million program will provide opportunities for disadvantaged children

“This is a very unique-to-Utah solution,” he said on the House floor. “We constantly, because of the finite dollars we have in public education, are constantly looking for innovation and efficiencies and smart practices.”

The bill’s critics say kids do better when their parents supervise their preschool learning. Republican Daniel McKay is an attorney and real estate manager who represents Riverton. He questioned the need for another government program like the ones that supported his family.

“We grew up on food stamps and welfare and took advantage of every social program we could to create the man you see standing here,” said McKay, choking up. “But I am also reticent of the crutches we create, that we don’t create too many. Is this too many? I don’t know. Let’s give it one more year to mature.”

Bill Crim of United Way-Salt Lake says lawmakers know more now about the economic value of preschool programs. Last year a similar bill failed. He says this year lawmakers better grasp the long-term costs of ignoring pre-kindergarten education.

“House Bill 96,” he says, “is an approach to providing high-quality preschool in a variety of ways with a focus on results and in a way that’s super-taxpayer friendly.”

The bill heads to the Senate, where a different preschool program is also under consideration.