116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — The Waterloo and Council Bluffs school districts will be testing early childhood education programs in partnership with the state and funded by federal pandemic relief dollars, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday.
Council Bluffs will receive $7 million to offer an early childhood pilot program that provides child care and early learning activities to prepare young children for preschool and kindergarten.
Waterloo will receive $3 million for a program that will aim to close the achievement gap in literacy and math, paritcularly among minority students.
“Both districts will be working with national experts and evaluating ways that we can expand their programs potentially again across the entire state,” Reynolds said Wednesday during a news conference at the Iowa Capitol.
The Council Bluffs early childhood program will expand childcare access and preschool programming for nearly 200 children up to age 3, said Council Bluffs Superintendent Vickie Murillo.
A portion of the $7 million will go to build an early learning center, which should be open by the fall of 2023, Murillo said. The district also will raise private funds for the project.
“Our goal has been to provide universal access to preschool for all of our children,” Murillo said during the news conference. “We are eager to proceed with making the dream a reality.”
The Waterloo program will be designed to help young students who are not meeting benchmarks in literacy and math proficiency. Studies have shown that those early indicators have a strong correlation with a young student’s future academic success.
Waterloo Superintendent Jane Lindaman said the pilot program will be designed to help all students, but will have a “special focus” on minority students.
“With broad-based support from the state and the national experts and consultants, we will be looking beyond our policies, procedures and practices to address the experiences that our Black and brown students have attending our schools,” Lindaman said at the news conference.
“We are committing to an action-based approach to achieve immediate and measurable results.”
Reynolds and Ann Lebo, the state education department director, said the pilot programs will serve as test runs and, i f successful, can help inform similar efforts at other Iowa schools.
“By implementing best practices, focusing on what is working and identifying the resources they need to keep us moving forward, we can create an even better education system and a better future for our students,” Lebo said.
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