"We’ve identified by statute who these kids are and that they do need special intervention to be able to help them get out of this cycle of poverty," Osmond said. "I feel very strongly that there has to be skin in the game. These schools have to show evidence of meeting these high-quality criteria."
Osmond ran with a similar bill last year that called for an innovative funding model where private organizations would lend money to the state to expand preschool and would be repaid with interest if the programs proved successful at keeping students out of special education.
Osmond said he still believes in that model, and would like to see it implemented in the future, but understands that some time with a direct funding model is needed to demonstrate the successes of high quality preschool programs.
"I think this is the model that we need to implement now to get momentum behind the importance and the impact of early education for our most at-risk kids," Osmond said. "Everyone is in agreement that those kids do need a special intervention. That there is a unique challenge. That there really is a skills gap for these groups."
Publicly funded preschool programs have generated some controversy throughout the United States, due to inconclusive data on the long-lasting efficacy of early intervention. While most studies agree that preschool for at-risk students leads to more students entering kindergarten and first grade at grade level, some studies suggest that without continued intervention, those gains are lost by the time an at-risk student leaves elementary school.
"After a year or two the data show that the children will fall behind if they’re not provided supportive efforts along the way," Reid said.
That continued effort is what Reid hopes to accomplish with his extended-day learning bill, which he said would be supported by Osmond's bill but is also capable of standing on its own. Reid has been involved in several statewide efforts to combat intergenerational poverty and said the research indicates that education is key to breaking the poverty cycle.
"(The bill) will help them learn what they need to learn to stay up with their peers day in and day out," Reid said. "But even more so it will give them a sense of confidence that they are learning the information and skills they need to be competitive every day they come into the classroom."
Menlove said the Utah State School Board has not yet taken a formal position on Osmond's and Jones' funding bills or Osmond's preschool bill, though he said that his office had worked with Osmond in preparing the preschool bill as well as a bill by Sen. Howard Stephenson that would increase the number of learning technology devices in schools.
In addition to Reid's bill, the board has formally supported a bill by Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy, that would clarify the types of conversations a teacher can have with a student if they suspect the student is at risk of suicide.
While presenting the bill to the Education Interim Committee in November, Eliason said that despite several steps to reduce suicide in recent years, educators have been hesitant to act out of a misunderstanding of what questions they're allowed to ask in a school setting.
"I felt it extremely necessary to run this bill to clarify that all the other work we’ve done in this category will be in vain if we can’t even talk about (suicide)," he said at the time. "When a suicide happens in a school, it’s a hot potato. They don’t know what to say."
Menlove said that he would like to see the legislative session address increased resources for some of the non-academic functions of schools, such as suicide prevention and anti-bullying efforts.
"I think we’re doing some good things there but I think there are some social-type things that are happening in the schools that I would like to see strengthened," he said.
The State School Board is also asking lawmakers for a 2.7 percent increase in the weighted pupil unit – the basic funding unit for per-pupil allocations – and targeted investments for initiatives on third grade literacy, eighth grade mathematics and the state's graduation rate.
"The board of education is trying to be realistic in looking at the funds that are available and the anticipation of funding that’s available," he said.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: bjaminwood
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