— Official News Release, Governor Dalrymple —
Gov. Jack Dalrymple today signed into law Senate Bill 2151, establishing a state grant program for early childhood education. The bill provides $3 million in state grants to certified pre-kindergarten programs that serve low-income children.
“This legislation is a great start,” Gov. Dalrymple said. “We’re confident that the people of North Dakota will realize the value of this program and that it will grow to benefit more children in the future.
“The value of early childhood education is becoming more appreciated every day,” Dalrymple said. “Four year olds are capable of a great deal of learning, and their gains have been proven to have lasting value.”
Senate Bill 2152 provides grant funds for qualified Pre-K programs that serve children who are at least four years old and qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Pre-K programs must be approved by the Department of Public Instruction to be eligible for grant funding. The grant program is completely voluntary.
The bill also calls for school superintendents to organize meetings with community Pre-K and licensed childcare providers to coordinate the development of cost-effective early childhood education programs.
“Today is a historic day for North Dakota’s young children,” said Kirsten Baesler, the North Dakota superintendent of public instruction.
“I am proud of the work of the Early Childhood Care and Education Study committee who played an important role in the development of a community plan,” Baesler said. “I am grateful to the diverse group of stakeholders who came together on a consensus bill and advocated strongly for it. I am thankful to the legislators who voted for this bill at a time of hard decisions on our state budget.
“This unique program helps educate and prepare young children,” said Sen. Tim Flakoll, one of the bill’s sponsors. “It includes parental involvement in the curriculum, and while it is an optional program we think there will be a high number of children who participate in the program. The program is also flexible in allowing parents the option to send their children to either a public or private provider.”
Joining Dalrymple in signing Senate Bill 2151 were Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, legislators and other stakeholders in early childhood education. The bill was sponsored by senators Tim Flakoll, Joan Heckaman and Nicole Poolman as well as representatives Mike Nathe and Mark Dosch.
“By passing this legislation, we are addressing the needs of North Dakota families who choose for their children an early start on the path to educational success,” Sen. Mike Nathe said.