It is the growing consensus among education leaders that vital learning happens before age 5. Until the recent economic downturn, state funding for early childhood education had been increasing steadily. Between 2001 and 2012, funding more than doubled to $5.1 billion annually. Maryland’s funding level increased nearly 600 percent, from $19.9 million in 2005 to $113.9 million in 2012. Alabama’s pre-K funding more than quintupled during that period. Since the start of the Great Recession, some have backtracked on support for early education. According to data from the National Institute for Early Education Research, Missouri’s funding for pre-K has dwindled from $14.7 million in 2005 to $11.8 million in 2012. Arizona’s funding, which was once more than $12.5 million, has been eliminated, taking preschool services away from more than 4,300 children.