State funding for pre-K plummets

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In 2012, state funding for pre-K education suffered the largest one-year drop ever recorded by the National Institute for Early Education Research, which announced the results of its annual "State of Preschool" report on April 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

NIEER has tracked trends since 2002, and authors of the latest report called the 2011-2012 school year "the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K for America's children." The survey shows that per-child funding fell despite stagnant enrollment, and cuts were widespread: 27 of 40 states with pre-K programs reported per-child funding declines in 2011-2012.

"Even though the nation is emerging from the Great Recession, it is clear that the nation's youngest learners are still bearing the brunt of the budget cuts," says NIEER director Steven Barnett.

"For the first time, we have gone in the opposite direction of where we need to go," says AFT president Randi Weingarten, who joined Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the press conference to discuss the results. "We have to reverse it. These investments are so essential to children's success and also to the success of our nation." (Watch a video of the press conference.)

The numbers are dire, but there are glimmers of hope. Appropriations for 2012-2013 were up modestly, and proposed state budgets for 2013-2014 "are also hopeful," the report observes, although not to levels that would suggest pre-K nationally has fully recovered from past cuts or reversed the negative trend. "The most positive recent development may be at the federal level. The president put pre-K on the national agenda in his State of the Union address and subsequently proposed to provide states with $75 billion in matching funds to increase access to high-quality pre-K over the next 10 years." [Mike Rose]

May 14, 2013