The Archuleta School District 50 Joint signaled its support for early childhood education on Tuesday night when the board of education voted to donate $35,000 to Seeds of Learning.
October’s district board meeting was attended by Lynne Bridges (director of Seeds of Learning), along with two district parents and several teachers and school administrators. School board candidate Bill Hudson did not attend the meeting.
Speaking to the importance of early childhood education and the benefit it provides children entering kindergarten, elementary school principal Kate Lister told the board that Seeds of Learning children entering her school have an added advantage.
“Every year, the scores improve with kids coming in from Seeds,” Lister said.
“We serve 86 percent poverty parents in our program,” Bridges told the board. “We know that we make a difference.”
However, Bridges added that Seeds of Learning children come from across the socioeconomic spectrum and said that, “We have children whose parents are doctors. They want their children in the program because of the quality of early-childhood education we provide.”
In August, Seeds of Learning was accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the nation’s leading organization of early childhood educators. Only 8 percent of all early-childhood facilities have been awarded that accreditation.
In discussing the amount (initially proposed at $25,000), the board raised the importance of early-childhood education and its impact on primary education.
“I think it’s a really good investment,” said director Joanne Irons, adding that the district saves money on the back end by not having to fund extensive remediation programs for young students struggling with learning at the elementary level.
Numerous studies conducted over the past three decades have shown that children enrolled in pre-K education programs outperform peers who did not receive early childhood education.
Director Greg Schick (Hudson’s opponent in the November election) said, “I know I want us to give this money; I just wish we could give more.”
Schick added that he was a big advocate for early childhood education, stating that, “the benefits are demonstrably certain.”
Although the district awarded Seeds of Learning $50,000 two years ago, that donation was spread out over both years. The board indicated that, provided the money was in place, it would consider another donation next year.
Funding for Seeds of Learning was taken from Secure Rural Schools money provided by Archuleta County last month. Secure Rural Schools funds are allocated out of the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The PILT program provides compensation to local governments to make up for lost tax revenue due to the presence of non-taxable federal land within their jurisdictions.