Advisory vote on funding early education supported on Action Line

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - An advocate for funding of the Best Starts program made her pitch while a guest on Action Line Wednesday.

    The program would provide a dual purpose.  It would help prepare young children for kindergarten and also provide child care for their families.

    The Assembly passed on a proposal to ante up $2 Million on an annual basis for the program during its just concluded budget deliberations.

    But it wants to know what the community thinks about the idea.   So Assembly member Loren Jones suggested at this week's regular meeting that  language be prepared for an advisory vote to appear on the October ballot.

    Joy Lyon is the executive director of the  Southeast Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children.  She said the advisory will really detail the full roll out cost each year if the city and borough decided to make the program available to every child in Juneau.  "It really would give the confidence level that the Assembly's looking for," she said.

    As far as child care facilities, Lyon said the community only has about half of the slots it needs.  There are currently 440 spaces in licensed child care programs.  It stood at 754 in 2002.

    Lyon participated in the Action Line update from the Juneau Economic Development Council.  The council collaborates each year with the association to prepare a summary on the state of early education in Juneau.

    Executive Director Brian Holst says they do that since a chief focus area for the council is talent development.  He said a strong economy requires an educated and talented work force.   

    According to a state study, 70 percent of children in Alaska are not ready for kindergarten.  He said Juneau is about the same, although a little bit better.  In that case, 32% are ready for kindergarten.  "When we look at talent and how important it is our economy, we have to go right  to the beginning," Holst said.  

    The proposed ballot initiative is now being drafted by the CBJ Law Department. 

    More from News of the North