Gov. Kate Brown told an Oregon legislative subcommittee today that Oregon must do more to support early learning programs in Oregon and should do everything it can to support and fund a preschool bill that the Children’s Institute and dozens of other Oregon organizations are advocating for.
“Supporting the stability and health of families, beginning prenatally and at birth, and providing access to high quality affordable child care and preschool is critical to ensure that all Oregon children thrive,” Brown told the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Education Subcommittee. “Unfortunately, these critical services and learning opportunities still only reach a fraction of the children and families who need them.”
Brown told the committee that’s why she is supporting HB 3380, which would provide a blueprint to make quality pre-school available to more children from low-income families.
“I think we have an opportunity this legislative session to build on our investments in early learning in Oregon and create a very strong foundation for Oregon children and their families,” she told the committee. “Investing early will have a positive ripple effect on our education system, our social services sector, our economy and Oregon’s future. Moreover, it’s the right thing to do.”
The bill would allow for a mix of organizations – school districts, Head Starts programs and community preschools -- to receive state funding to provide the high quality preschool programs. About three-quarters of children from low-income Oregon families currently don’t have access to preschool.
The Children’s Institute, the Oregon Head Start Association and a number of other partners have built a strong coalition of supporters for the proposal. A companion bill, which the Ways and Means Education Subcommittee is also considering, would provide $30 million to fund the program for the 2015-2017 biennium.
Two parents from the David Douglas School District’s Earl Boyles Elementary in southeast Portland also testified in support of the bill. Earl Boyles offers public preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in its catchment area.
Each talked about how their children’s experiences in preschool made them better learners and ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
Nidia Perez said her four-year-old son, David, learned colors and letters very early because of his participation in the Earl Boyles preschool.
Krista Dennis said her son, John, who has just finished first grade at Earl Boyles, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and was mostly non-verbal when he entered private preschool at 3 years old. He attended one year of that preschool and a second year of preschool at Earl Boyles. “Going to the Earl Boyles program, he did amazing,” she said. “He learned all his letters, all his shapes, and he learned to cope so well it just sparked his learning."
By kindergarten, he had qualified for the school’s talented and gifted program, Dennis said.
Representatives from the Oregon Head Start Association also testified in support of the policy bill and the funding bill. If approved, the bills would provide money for Head Start programs to serve more eligible families. Head Start programs have long waiting lists of families who are eligible but can’t access services because the of the program’s limited funding.
The Oregon House of Representatives’ Education Committee had unanimously approved HB 3380 in April, moving it on to the Ways and Means Committee.
The Ways and Means Education Subcommittee is expected to vote on the bill in the next two weeks; the full Ways and Means committee will consider it after that.
We’ll keep you updated, of course, as the bill makes its way through the Legislature. You can read about our entire legislative agenda .