During the past few months Alaskans were loud and clear in their messages to legislators and the governor about ensuring state support for early learning – for Head Start, PreK, Parents as Teachers, and Best Beginnings. And, in the end, those messages were heard, and the governor signed an operating budget that included that support: $6.8million for Head Start, $1.2million for PreK, $475,000 for Parents as Teachers, and $320,000 for Best Beginnings.
To everyone who made calls, sent emails, and/or testified before legislative committees, thank you!
Best Beginnings has been described as a “public-private partnership” since its inception, and, of course, that means investments by the state as well as those from foundations, corporations, businesses, and individuals. In the past five years, the state’s investment in Best Beginnings has provided about half our annual budget. Those funds have enabled us to fulfill matching grant requests from community-based Imagination Libraries around the state, including Anchorage; provide technical assistance to existing and prospective Imagination Libraries; and support parent education activities, among other things.
Today, children in 117 Alaska communities are receiving books though 29 Imagination Libraries, and volunteers in Galena, Copper Center, and Kodiak are exploring the opening (or re-opening) of an Imagination Library in their community.
State funding also plays another critical role for Best Beginnings. It helps us leverage private funding for Best Beginnings and for our Imagination Library partners across Alaska. The cost of providing a high-quality, age-appropriate, new book a month for a full year for 18,500 children is about double the value of the state’s investment.
While we are pleased the legislature and governor recognized the value of early learning in the FY 2020 budget, we cannot just sit back and expect the same result at the end of the next legislative session – now more than ever supporters of Best Beginnings are needed as volunteers, advocates, and donors. On behalf of Alaska’s young children and their families, we thank you. And, guess what? There will be a whole new batch of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers whose future reading proficiency will start with an Imagination Library book.