Boise Schools, City Team Up To Launch Public Preschool

Feb 11, 2015

The city of Boise and the Boise School District are teaming up to offer preschool as part of the city's Vista Neighborhood Project pilot program. Over a number of years, the city is putting several million dollars into this one part of town in hopes of transforming the relatively-poor neighborhood.

Diana Lachiondo with Boise’s mayor’s office says research shows preschool is good for communities.

“Preschool can have a longitudinal impact on reducing crime, on improving education outcomes that lead to a better workforce,” Lachiondo says. “So we do see this as a neighborhood investment.”

Idaho is one of only a few states without statewide public preschool. The issue has a long, tense history in the state. Some Idaho law makers vehemently oppose preschool on philosophical grounds.

Several Idaho districts provide preschool to kids with special needs, and a few offer preschool to other kids as well. Caldwell, Blaine County and Idaho City’s Basin District have open preschool programs.

The city of Boise went to the Boise School District about a year ago and offered to team up to create a preschool. The district signed on despite a difficult history.

The Boise district used to offer preschool at a few locations. In 2007, some state lawmakers objected and wanted the program shut down. The district rode out that controversy but eliminated its preschools in 2010.

District student programs administrator Stacy Roth says that decision was not because of the state opposition, and not because the district doubts preschool’s effectiveness.

“It was strictly financial,” Roth says. “There was only so much money. And so now we have this opportunity again and so we’re excited to take that opportunity.”

This time around, the city will be providing the district’s preschool funding. But it doesn’t have that money yet. Lachiondo says the city is still talking with nonprofits and businesses to find sponsors.

Roth hopes by early next year the district can start teaching about 60 preschoolers between Hawthorne and Whitney elementary schools in the Vista Neighborhood.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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