JOHNSTON, Iowa - Gov. Terry Branstad will not seek changes to the state's universal preschool program for at least the next two years as the state moves forward with its education reform package.
The commitment is a change from Tuesday when Branstad sidestepped several questions about the future of the state's preschool program during a news conference immediately following the Iowa Education Summit.
Pre-K education found wide support among the summit's speakers and audience members, who frequently applauded when a panelist or presenter indicated their support for such programs.
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Earlier this year, Branstad pushed a proposal that would have every parent pay something - based on a sliding income scale - for their child to attend a preschool program. The plan didn't make it through the Legislature, and the governor ultimately backed off, although he indicated he issue wasn't settled.
On Thursday, during a taping of an Iowa Public Television show, Department of Education Director Jason Glass said the governor had decided "to move past this debate" on a universal or a needs-based tuition preschool program. Branstad initially was scheduled to appear on the show but sent Glass in his stead so the governor could inspect the flooding in northeastern Iowa.
Asked to expand upon Glass's comments, Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said the governor has decided not to ask for any changes to the current program for the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions.
"Now that preschool funding is in place, Gov. Branstad does not believe a preschool funding debate should overshadow a meaningful debate on how to again make Iowa's schools the best in the country," Albrecht wrote in a follow-up email. "Now that Gov. Branstad has allocated funding for preschool over the next two years, he does not desire this settled issue to get in the way of our education reform goals."
Those goals are expected to be developed over the next few months by the administration in conjunction with the representatives from the teacher's union, school administrator's association, school board association, business community and lawmakers.