Democrat running for Arizona governor offers free pre-K | Arizona News

By JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — A Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Arizona has said all 4-year-olds should have the option of free preschool.

Former State Representative Aaron Lieberman introduced the proposal during a press conference at a Head Start center in east Phoenix on Thursday. He says high-quality early learning programs prepare children for success in kindergarten and long into the future.

He also says his plan would boost the economy by allowing more parents to enter the workforce or save money they would otherwise spend on childcare.

Lieberman envisions a program that would eventually serve 60,000 children at a cost of $450 million a year. He acknowledged that childcare providers, who are already struggling to find and retain staff, would struggle to find enough staff to handle the influx of students. He said good salaries would help.

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“Anyone who’s been involved in pre-K as an educator usually does it because it’s a passion,” Lieberman said. “Often they have stopped doing it because they cannot afford to support their families. That’s what we’re going to change by making sure we pay teachers well.

Lieberman founded two organizations focused on early childhood education before being elected to the Paradise Valley Legislative Assembly in 2018. He established a reputation as a moderate during two terms in the House and resigned the last year to focus on his campaign for governor.

He is not well known to Democratic primary voters compared to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who has built a national profile championing the integrity of the 2020 election. He also faces businessman Marco Lopez who served as mayor of Nogales and as a border agent during the administration of President Barack Obama.

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