Wednesday, February 21, 2018

WY - Lawmakers Work To Strengthen Early Childhood Education

(Wyoming Public Media) - An effort to better coordinate early childhood education is underway in the Wyoming legislature. It’s part of policymakers’ efforts to streamline funding for education.

Currently, early childhood services fall under three different state agencies: the Department of Family Services, the Department of Workforce Services and the Department of Health. Services like child development centers prepare kids for school by intervening before they turn five to identify and treat developmental disabilities and delays. That’s why lawmakers and educators are suggesting kids would be better served if those services were coordinated by the Wyoming Department of Education.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss said early intervention has been shown to reduce special education costs. Rothfuss said the WDE would provide a stronger link between early childhood services and K-12 education.

“I see this legislation as a first step to ensure that we do know what’s going on, and that we have one individual and an office that is capable of communicating among themselves,” said Rothfuss. With a centralized office, Rothfuss said the hope is the WDE would “be capable of communicating where we are, what our needs are, and what we can be doing better.”

He said, ultimately, the goal is to get “a better understanding of how we can leverage those services among the various programs in a way that benefits all the children in the state, and help our early childhood system gain some focus it doesn’t necessarily have.”

The proposed legislation would set in a motion a multi-year transition process involving stakeholder input. It must first get approval in the Senate before moving onto the House.