In two evening sessions Monday, legislative committees endorsed plans to get money for early childhood education from special funds.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6 to 4 to recommend putting a question on the ballot for the public to decide about using 1% of the Land Grant Permanent Fund per year for early childhood education. The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 3, sponsored by Sen. Michael Sanchez, is a constitutional amendment. It would raise about $110 million per year for early childhood services for 10 years. After 10 years, the legislature and public could decide whether to continue the funding. All Democrats supported the measure; all Republicans opposed it, though the Republicans said they know the importance of early childhood education. They want the money to be found in the general budget. The measure now goes to the Senate Finance Committee, where it faces possibly its greatest hurdle.
Meanwhile, across the hall, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to endorse a measure, sponsored by Sen. John Arthur Smith, to appropriate $9.75 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund for early childhood education -- $2 million for home visiting, $5.75 million for Children, Youth and Families Dept. PreK, and $2 million to increase child care assistance rates for programs rated in the top three levels of quality. The measure now goes to the Senate floor for a vote of all Senate members.