Access to Programs

While the results from pre-K education are well documented, the current funding and availability of early education varies widely.  The recent recession has made it difficult for states to continue funding state-run pre-K programs, resulting in a decrease of $442 in the average state pre-K funding per child. Enrollment in state-run pre-k programs has remained relatively flat.

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.

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.