On a congressional recess, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, found himself in school in Marshalltown Monday.
Harkin visited the YMCA-YWCA preschool to learn about the program and stress the importance of early childhood education.
Harkin said money toward college grants and scholarships in higher education can often lead to early childhood funding getting overlooked.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, talks to children at the YMCA-YWCA summer preschool program in Marshalltown Monday. Harkin is a big proponent of funding for early childhood education.
"I've been trying for a long time to get more focus on education in early childhood," Harkin said. "Scientific fact is that kids' brains develop the most in that first, second and third year in life."
He plans to introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate this fall to focus more on early childhood education. He admits it costs money and they need to have high quality programs for them to work.
"We can make some big improvements in a short period of time," Harkin said.
Harkin feels it's cheaper to get to children early rather than try to catch them up later in their elementary years.
"The amount of money that it takes later on to catch up we don't have," Harkin said.
Harkin read the group of Y students a book and taught them sign language. He was impressed with the operation in Marshalltown.
"They are doing it right," Harkin said. "They've got a good system here."
Carol Hibbs, CEO of the YMCA-YWCA, was excited for Harkin's visit.
"We're thrilled," Hibbs said. "We are happy to show what has been happening in early childhood education in Marshalltown."
Arlene McAtee, director of Mid-Iowa Community Action, said one of the things they highlighted to Harkin is how early childhood education is a collaborative endeavor in Marshalltown as different agencies and groups join forces.
"It's extremely unusual the collaboration we have here," McAtee said.