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Pre-Kindergarten Slipping Nationally as States Cut Budgets

April 10, 2012

PHOENIX - It's not the best mix for quality, according to a new report: More children making their way into state-funded pre-kindergarten classrooms, but a lot less money to support early education. Dr. Steve Barnett directs the non-partisan National Institute for Early Education Research, and his group says after years of steady progress, total spending by the states for pre-K programs has declined for a second year. And Barnett says it's even worse in Arizona, which eliminated its Early Childhood Block Grant entirely in 2010.

"Arizona's the only state in the country that used to have a pre-school program and eliminated it completely. That's not going to cut it, providing quality education for the 21st century."

The report says many states already fail to provide enough funding to ensure their pre-K programs meet minimum quality standards. But research clearly shows that only high-quality programs significantly help prepare children for school.

Studies have shown kids from low-income families who start kindergarten without a quality pre-K program enter school an estimated 18 months behind their peers, and many never catch up.

Kate Breslin, President and CEO, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy and co-convener of Winning Beginnings New York, says poor and minority children get the most from good programs.

"The positive impact of pre-K is greatest for Hispanic children, black children, English-language learners and children from low-income families."

One-quarter of the nation's four-year-olds and more than half the three-year-olds attend no pre-school, either public or private.

The study will be posted Tuesday morning on the web at www.nieer.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ