Idaho's early childhood education and school-readiness efforts are getting a big boost from a federal grant.
The state has been awarded the Preschool Development Grant, which will provide nearly $6 million a year in funding for the next three years.
The Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children and the state Board of Education are partnering on the outreach effort. Beth Oppenheimer, Idaho AEYC's executive director, said they're already getting the word out to parents.
"What are the services that are available? What are the programs that are available that can help them work with their children at home? Or, if they need to find a program within their community - whether it's a child-care program, a preschool program or home-visiting program - they know where to go," she said.
The work also is building on a needs assessment conducted in 2020 with a one-year federal grant. Oppenheimer said her organization and the state will continue to identify the needs of Idaho families and fill as many gaps as they can.
Another goal of the grant is to localize solutions. For instance, Oppenheimer said the pandemic has exposed the great need for child care.
"Families who historically didn't have to rely on child care and then, all of a sudden, had to rely on child care and realized the cost of what that looks like," she said, "we're finding across the country and in Idaho as well, that working moms, specifically, are having to drop out of the workforce."
She said the grant will help the state better serve working families with high-quality care.
Idaho is one of a handful of states without public preschool, but Oppenheimer said the state has made strides in offering early-childhood learning opportunities in the past few years, and the Preschool Development Grant is another big building block.
"We have honestly moved mountains in the realm of early-childhood education in the past few years," she said, "and we are really excited to take that momentum and continue to move it forward."