Consultants hired by the state legislature to help Wyoming bring efficiencies to the school funding model are asking lawmakers to consider adding a voluntary pre-K program for 4-year-olds.
The consultants found that investing in early childhood education could reduce K-12 resource needs in the long run, like more expensive interventions required for closing achievement gaps with older students. Wyoming is one of seven states without a statewide preschool program.
Sweetwater School District #2 runs one of the few school-based pre-K programs in the state, but Superintendent Donna Little-Kaumo said the current funding model only allows schools to work with kids ages 5 and up.
“I would love to be able to access four year olds that we could work with, and have them ready to go by kindergarten,” said Little-Kaumo. “Because we really think that that investment is going to show significant achievement across the grades later.”
Little-Kaumo said she’s already seeing the impact of the Junior Kindergarten for young 5 years olds her district started three years ago.
“We are seeing kids that are motivated to learn, kids that are confident and believe in themselves as learners, teachers that can move on with the curriculum because the kids are ready, and parents that feel like they’ve had a gift of a lifetime for their child” said Little-Kaumo. “It’s just a win-win-win any way you look at it.”
The kids who have participated in Sweetwater District #2’s Junior Kindergarten are all on track, according Little-Kaumo, and she’s confident that funding school-based programs for 4-year-olds across the state would lead to improved outcomes.
Recent reports from the Rand Corporation and the American Educational Research Association support the implementation of early childhood education and affirm the education consultants’ recommendations to the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration.