Preschool Education

On Wednesday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced the expansion of Alabama’s pre-kindergarten program. While HB 166 was signed into law in May, it has been getting more attention as Fiscal Year 2014 nears, the education budget will create 93 new grant recipients in pre-kindergarten programs throughout Alabama.

An estimated 16,000 additional 4-year-olds in Michigan will be able to enroll in preschool next year under a budget enacted by the legislature.  Governor Rick Snyder is set to sign into law his proposal to increase funding for preschool in his 2013 budget request by 60 percent.  Snyder’s 2013 budget includes $65 million more for The Early Start Readiness Program. He reportedly plans to seek an additional $65 in the 2014 state budget to expand pre-k services further. 

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan took his case for $75 billion to expand pre-kindergarten to the House Education and Workforce Committee on Tuesday. Duncan called the plan to make preschool available to more four-year-old children, "the smartest use of our education dollars.”

The 2011-2012 school year was the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K for America’s children, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). The organization reached that conclusion in its annual State of Preschool report. NIEER’s 2012 Yearbook, released Monday, concludes state funding for pre-K decreased by over half a billion dollars in 2011-2012, the largest one-year drop ever. The organization blames in part the lingering effects of the recession on state budgets.

President Obama made a public push for greatly expanded access to high-quality early education programs Thursday, touting the benefits of quality pre-K programs for 4-year-olds. “This is not babysitting. This is teaching,” Obama said in a speech to educators and parents in Decatur. The President expounded on a plan for ramping up early education which he included in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

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.

The U.S. Department of Education has set a deadline of 5 p.m. EDT Monday, July 11 to comment on guidelines for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. Those wishing to provide input, including data and relevant research, on the draft criteria should visit http://www.ed.gov/early-learning/elc-draft-summary.

Illinois recently became the first state to require preschools to offer services to English language learners. Rules approved this year by the state school board clarify what districts must do in order to help put these young students on the path to success.

Research shows that children who attend pre-K programs are more successful in later grades. However, state funding and policies regarding pre-k programs vary widely.

 

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that The Council of State Governments encourages all states to implement strategies to increase enrollment in high-quality early childhood education programs, as well as create new programs so that all 3 and 4 year old children are served.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The Council of State Governments encourages research efforts to study the effectiveness of high-quality universal early childhood education programs.
 

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