Learning Ahead: Part 3

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Not every child gets the opportunity to attend preschool, and some people think, "What can I do to help?"

Steve, we've heard from both teachers and parents about how early childhood education has benefited their students and children.

Wednesday night, we'll look at what's being done to change the current state of preschool in South Dakota, as we conclude our in-depth look at "Learning Ahead."

Kayla Klein says, "I feel like I have a pretty solid educational background, but there are certain things you can't learn without that social and emotional environment where you can interact with your peers."

She's the executive director of the Northern Hills Alliance for Children, a non-profit group aiming to provide affordable childcare and educational services to young kids, but she's also a mom.

Kayla Klein says, "Knowing and seeing and experiencing firsthand what a huge difference it's making in their lives. So many of these things that my son's bringing home I know I didn't teach him."

Klein says preschoolers learn more than just academics.

Kayla Klein says, "They know just basic life skills: how to zip up your jacket, how to raise your hand, how to sit and listen to a story for more than five minutes and being able to ask questions."

And she believes parents and community members can make a difference.

Kayla Klein says, "You're going to be the best advocate for that child. Stick up for the youngest people in our society who can't have a voice."

She says giving legislators statistics and studies can be effective, but telling personal stories can really hit home.

Kayla Klein says, "Send them an e-mail. Tell them passionately how you feel, what you think has changed in your child's life because of their experience in pre-school."

Earlier this year the Democratic South Dakota governor candidate Billie Sutton proposed two bills regarding early ed, but the Senate Education Committee voted no in a 6 to 1 vote on both bills.

Senate Bill 156 would have established an Early Learning Advisory Council for South Dakota.

Senate Bill 155 called for the state of South Dakota to begin contributing to preschool education - like most other states - beginning with five million dollars for a pilot preschool program.

Senator Alan Solano was one of six votes on the education committee who voted no for both bills.

Solano says he's not against preschool education.

His main concern is how the state would pay for it.

Alan Solano says, "One of the greatest problems in this past fiscal year is during the session, we were so short on revenue as we were trying to put together the budget. And Senate Bill 155 was looking for $5 million expenditure and so I think that in it of itself was a real problem.

Some opponents say investing in preschool would take away money from kindergarten through 12th grade, and that it should be the parents' responsibility to teach their kids - not preschool.

But Sutton says funding is possible.

Billie Sutton says, "Well number one, when people have that response, a lot of times that's just an excuse. We need to prioritize the dollars that we have to make the best investment possible. We also need to focus on having private-public partnerships because there's a lot of groups out there and a lot of businesses that see the benefit of this for the future of their business that would like to be involved in that conversation."

You can also visit sdlegislature.gov to learn about the proposed ECE bills or any other state laws.