States' commitment to early childhood programs slipping

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A new report on the quality of state-funded early childhood education shows that after a decade of progress that has expanded enrollments and increased quality, states' commitment to these vital programs is slipping.

Reflecting continuing fiscal pressures from the Great Recession, state funding for pre-K dropped by almost $60 million in 2010-11, according to the report, "The State of Preschool 2011," from the National Institute for Early Education Research. If not for federal economic stimulus funding, cuts in resources would have been even more devastating. Over the last decade, per-child state support for early education has dropped by as much as 15 percent.

"The overriding message of this report is that budget cuts are limiting enrollment or quality—or both—for early childhood education across the country," AFT president Randi Weingarten says. "This report correctly calls for increased public commitment to early education. Especially in difficult times, we must invest in the future. Our youngest children are the next generation of workers and citizens who will build that future. Research shows that every dollar invested in early education returns eight dollars in benefits to society and the individual students.

"There is no question about the benefits of high-quality early education. Years of research have shown that kids in these programs do better in school and ultimately are better prepared to succeed in their studies, in their community and in the new global information economy. Additionally, the AFT's recent report, "Right From the Start," highlights several programs around the country that, through community partnerships and family engagement have had great success helping young children make the transition to school." [AFT press release]

April 10, 2012