Talk about a frenetic time. When the House Finance Subcommittee on Education unexpectedly reduced funding for Best Beginnings and Parents as Teachers, people who believe in what we’re doing came out of the woodwork to share their stories.
We won’t have a final answer on funding for early learning until the operating budget is approved. But I’m optimistic. What we’re doing works and lots of Alaskans know it. The evidence of that came out in force March 5 and 6, when the House Finance Committee took public testimony on the state’s FY 2014 operating budget.
- Stan Lujan, a retired school superintendent who now lives in Juneau: “As I reflect back on all the successful children I’ve known, most of them were the ones who came to our elementary schools with the readiness skills needed to begin their long journey toward high school graduation and beyond.” Lujan urged full funding for Best Beginnings and Parents as Teachers because both “have been amazingly successful with our young children, before they enter kindergarten.”
- Sandy Soltenberger of Barrow: “The books we send out (through Imagination Library) are treasured and read again and again; the children themselves ask repeatedly for them to be read. Children flourish in the warmth of interaction with parents and caregivers….”
- Jasmine Wells of Delta: “The Delta Imagination Library is our community’s way of being proactive and directing our youth into a positive direction filled with learning, preparation, and family engagement.”
- Emily Vockeroth, Fairbanks, told how Best Beginnings has funded Fairbanks projects the community identified as priorities. They include improving literacy education for child care providers, a website with resources for young families, and a community-wide campaign to disseminate information about early childhood development.
- Jenny Martin, Homer, said funding from Best Beginnings has enabled the Homer partnership to coordinate language and literacy training, work with the local public library to expand story hours outside town, and complete play space assessments.
These are just a few of the Alaskans who spoke out in favor of full funding for early learning. The House Finance Committee responded by adding most funds back in for Best Beginnings, but we’re pushing for the full funding recommended by the Governor for both Best Beginnings ($937,500) and Parents as Teachers. That means our efforts now turn to the Senate Finance Committee. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, it is inspiring and very gratifying to hear how Best Beginnings – and all the volunteers that work with us statewide – is making a difference.