The federal governemnt is again using borrowed money and deficit spending to take control over our lives:
Just weeks ago, the state House of Representatives blocked a governor-backed plan that would have established the framework for public preschool programs in South Dakota.
But lawmakers might not have stopped it all.
Members of Gov. Mike Rounds’ Cabinet are preparing to decide whether to recommend that the governor pursue the plan anyway and seek a federal grant for the Early Learning program’s establishment.
Their deliberations come at the same time that the South Dakota Board of Education has proposed new rules regarding preschools.
The board wants to require that public school districts must submit their preschool enrollment data to the state education department, starting with the upcoming 2010-11 academic year.
The proposed rules also would create for the first time a definition of a full-time preschool student and a formula for determining part-time preschool students.
Those new rules are scheduled for a public hearing May 17 before the state board.
A spokesman for the federal Administration for Children and Families said Wednesday the agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, plans to send letters to all governors in the coming weeks regarding the federal Early Childhood Learning and Care program.
The letter will ask whether the state intends to apply and what the target date is for the state’s submission of its application.
“We hope to have responses from each state by the end of May,” said Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director for the federal agency’s Office of Public Affairs.
The federal agency has allocated $500,000 as South Dakota’s potential share of the $100 million grant program. The program operates on a funding split of 30 percent federal and 70 percent state, meaning South Dakota would need to come up with $1,167,000 as its match.
The federal criteria don’t require a state to adopt any laws to qualify for the grant. Instead a governor is allowed to attach the state’s Early Learning Council to an existing entity.
The state legislation rejected by the House of Representatives in March would have created a South Dakota Early Learning Council intended to foster preschool programs for low-income students statewide.
The legislation had the strong support of several members of the governor’s Cabinet including Education Secretary Tom Oster and Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman.
It would have established a process for comprehensive pre-kindergarten plans to be developed by communities and reviewed for acceptance by the council.
The Rounds administration has made pre-K programs one of its priorities but has been repeatedly blocked, meeting the most resistance in the House.
The rules proposal and the federal Early Learning grant could be the governor’s last opportunities to establish a foothold for future preschool funding as he completes his eighth and final year in office.
Oster said Wednesday that Education and Social Services officials plan to meet next week to discuss the federal grant and the Early Learning Council. The federal grant criteria include a requirement that the governor establish an Early Learning Council.
“After our meeting, we plan to meet with the governor and present our recommendations,” Oster said.