The 2011-12 school year was a difficult one for pre-K advocates as state funding fell and after a decade of growth, pre-K enrollment stalled.

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.”

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.

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.