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Report: KY Among Few States Cutting Early Ed Programs

December 15, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. - State education officials say Kentucky is still committed to giving kids a good head start with state-supported preschool programs, despite a recent budget hit. A recent report from the Pew Center on the States lists Kentucky as one of only ten cash-strapped states that allocated fewer dollars to pre-kindergarten programs for the 2011 fiscal year.

Annette Bridges, director of early childhood development for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), says the $2.6 million dollar reduction means $200 less per child going to school districts this year.

"It used to be that schools, for each classroom, because a large number of our kids have disabilities, we would have that third person in the classroom. So, it could mean actually cutting staff."

Kentucky led the nation in allocating state dollars for preschool programs through the 1990 Education Reform Act, says Bridges, although recent cuts have caused some schools to go from full-day to half-day kindergarten.

"And we know, the research tells us, that children who are most at risk of academic failure, they do better - they're learning is much higher - when they're in full-day programs, at least four days a week."

Annie Rooney French, a KDE preschool consultant, says the payoff with pre-K programs comes years down the road – with more kids earning their high school diplomas.

"Early childhood education, specifically the state-funded preschool program and the Head Start program, will enable the state to increase their high school graduation rates, by having and continuing to have high-quality preschool. "

Bridges adds the cuts do not affect curriculum or certain services provided to children with disabilities. She also notes that pre-K programs help reduce grade repetition and juvenile delinquency, and result in higher earnings in adulthood.

The Pew national report on pre-K funding by state is online at www.preknow.org.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY