EarlyStories has for years followed the missing saga of pre-kindergarten education in South Dakota, one of 12 states with no publicly funded program. Efforts to fund any kind of pre-k program in this rural state have hit more than a few roadblocks . It would be fascinating to spend some time traveling around and speaking with residents — and legislators — about what has been some adamant opposition to spending public money on early childhood education. Pilot programs in the state have enjoyed some success but the opposition is still adamant; much of it focused on a feeling that parents — and not schools or government — should take charge of a child’s early education.
It appears now that South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds may apply for some federal funds for a program, after two difficult legislative sessions, where proposals have been narrowly defeated. The South Dakota Family Council has been a big opponent, as have many legislators. By the way, a good site for following local developments in the state can be found here.
What would it mean to South Dakota to get a pre-kindergarten program up and running?
Dr. Susan Randall, executive director of South Dakota Voices for Children, told Public News Service it would be a major step forward. “It could do nothing except be positive in enhancing coordination, and enhancing opportunities for addressing unmet needs,” she said.
In the past, task force reports and other efforts have failed to sway the legislators, bucking a national trend toward the realization that a solid early childhood foundation can make a profound difference, not just in the life of a child but in a state’s economy.