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Report: Pre-K Spared in Most State Budgets, but Not in OR

December 9, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon's pint-sized future voters and taxpayers are being shortchanged, according to a new report from the Pew Center on the States. Oregon is one of only 10 states that have cut funding for the coming year for pre-kindergarten (pre-k) programs that prepare children from poor families for school.

Marci Young, the Pre-K Now campaign director for Pew, says the 9-percent decrease is significant: about $5 million.

"We expect the pre-k enrollment to drop, and probably about 600 children will not have access to high-quality pre-k. So, it is a disappointment. However, Oregon's not alone in terms of facing really tough choices."

The State Legislature did appropriate money for an Early Head Start program for the first time, and Young points out that Oregon lawmakers in past years have recognized the importance of voluntary pre-k programs. But they have been stymied by the budget crisis, she says.

"There has been strong progress in Oregon. What we hope is, as states really have to cull through and figure out which programs are going to help get their economy back on track, a lot of them will recognize that this a program they can't afford not to invest in, at this point."

The Pew report says 26 states managed to either hang onto their current funding levels or increase them, no matter which political party was in power. Young calls that a clear message that early learning is seen as a valued strategy for education reform.

The full report is available at www.preknow.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR