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BLOOMINGTON - Several educators in the Twin Cities praised the governor's proposal to pay for preschool as an endorsement for the concept of early education, but they wondered if it's the right way for the state to spend the money.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich unveiled a budget Wednesday that included $45 million a year over three years to pay for opening pre-kindergarten schooling to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state, regardless of income.

"We certainly agree that kids should get off to a good start in school," said Normal-based Unit 5 Superintendent Alan Chapman. "We would not want it to be a requirement unless there is funding available for it. We can't afford to add something we can't afford to pay for."

Beverly Jennings, director of A Child's View Cooperative in Bloomington agreed with Chapman. The 50-year-old cooperative has 46 students who are ages 3 to 5 and mostly from Bloomington, Normal and Downs.

"I think early childhood education is a positive thing for children," she said. "I'm not sure that I support it as a state-funded project."

As for how the governor's preschool plan would affect existing programs and parents, Jennings said, "It's too early to tell."

Tina Fogal, principal of District 87's Sarah Raymond School of Early Education in Bloomington, agreed that there aren't enough details yet to know how the plan would work and how it would affect existing schools.

Bringing more children into the system could overburden schools, she said.

"We're at capacity," Fogal said. "The teachers have their break room on the stage."

There is a variety of opinion about the governor's plan, Fogal said. Some people agree that the money should be spent on children ages 3 to 5, but others believe that money should be spent on helping third- to fifth-grade students with math and other basics, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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