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Proposition would provide free preschool for all

Christine StanleySierra Sun
Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunHayden Ruttenberg, 4, and Annebelle Walterscheid, 3, play with the cash register at Church of the Mountains Preschool on Tuesday.
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A ballot measure to provide free preschool to all California tots has Truckee educators eager to get children out of homes and into the classroom, while opponents of the act are concerned about the impact to good business.The Preschool for All Act, a measure that will appear as Proposition 82 on Californias June 6 ballot, would provide every 4-year-old in the state the opportunity to attend a half-day preschool program for free beginning in 2010. The measure could be beneficial to Truckee families that cannot afford the costs of preschool, though some private preschools have voiced concern that if they accept public dollars to provide a free service, they will be subject to new state guidelines, which would not be set until after the measure passes.There are only a certain number of families that can qualify (to attend state preschools), and there are only so many spots available, so some students stay home, said Mary Lee Schaffarzick, head preschool teacher at the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District preschool. The benefits of attending preschool are numerous, educators say, not only for a child, but also for kindergarten teachers who report greater ease in teaching children who have already been exposed to a classroom setting and routine. (Kindergartners) need be able to pay attention, listen to a teacher, follow directions, and not be overwhelmed, Schaffarzick said. Its social readiness; patterning, sequencing. They participate in activities that develop their fine motor skills so that they will be able to use scissors and hold pencils.For some, the downside of the proposition comes in the form of state control. As it stands today, private preschools have the freedom to determine their own curriculum, but accepting funds from the state could change that. There will be some curriculum requirements, said Jean Soliz, executive director of First Five Nevada County, a public agency funded by Proposition 10s tobacco tax dollars. But dont forget that the curriculum for 4-year-olds is play; thats how they learn.If the measure passes, Nevada County would receive somewhere between $4 million and $5 million, Soliz said, and at least one quarter of that would filter down to Truckees preschool programs.


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