Legislature: Preschool in-home computer proposal advancesPIERRE (AP) — A legislative panel has backed a proposal for an at-home, computer-based preschool program for low-income families, despite opposition from education lobbyists.
PIERRE (AP) — A legislative panel has backed a proposal for an at-home, computer-based preschool program for low-income families, despite opposition from education lobbyists.
The plan, approved Friday by the House Education Committee, would put computers and software in low-income homes with 4- and 5-year-olds. Parents must promise that their children will spend at least 15 minutes a day working on programs covering reading, math and science.
Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, said she based her bill on a Utah program that costs about $1,500 annually per child. She did not spell out how much the program might cost in South Dakota.
"It's been very successful in Utah," she said.
The South Dakota Head Start Association opposed the proposal. Kathy Cruse, the group's executive director, said Head Start serves 5,800 children in the state, but it doesn't have enough money to reach all preschool-age children. She said as many as 2,000 eligible youngsters aren't served because of budget woes.
Cruse said she applauds efforts to expand preschool opportunities but doesn't like the idea of a child learning alone in front of a computer.
"We're against the basic concept of isolated, computerized learning ... and rote academic exercises," she said, according to media reports.
Linda Schauer of Concerned Women for America voiced similar concerns, saying that children benefit more from play time than computerized instruction.
Rob Monson, executive director for School Administrators of South Dakota, said he liked the concept behind Sly's proposal but wants to know how the state would pay for it.
"We're not funding our K-12 education system fully," he said.
After taking testimony last week, the House Education Committee voted 8-7 Friday to advance the bill to the Appropriations Committee without a specific dollar amount attached.
The committee's four Democrats all voted against the bill, including Ray Ring of Vermillion, who called it a "terrific program" but urged a no vote to send a message about education's place in the state's spending priorities.