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State of Preschool, State of Emergency

GRAPHIC: How Kentucky ranks in preschool funding and access. Graphic courtesy NIEER.
GRAPHIC: How Kentucky ranks in preschool funding and access. Graphic courtesy NIEER.
April 29, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A dismal picture of the state of preschool in the United States is painted by a new report. The National Institute for Early Education Research 2012 Yearbook found, on average, that there's less access to preschool programs and funding is down. Kentucky is one of just twelve states where state support increased last year, though just barely. Nationwide, enrollment and quality dropped.

According to report author Dr. Steven Barnett, preschools in the United States are in a state of emergency.

"Funding cuts this year were severe, unprecedented," he declared. "States have to prioritize high-quality pre-K to meet the needs of their youngest learners."

One reason for the decline is the lingering effect of the Great Recession. Nationwide, pre-K funding decreased by $442 per child from the previous year. In Kentucky, state support increased $26 a child to nearly $75 million. But total funding - at $145.5 million - represented a $3 million drop, a trend since 2008.

Still, Barnett sees promise of improvement in the President's budget proposal to increase preschool funding that would match state funds at a nine-to-one level for the first two years.

"I don't think there's much question that some kind of federal support for state-funded pre-K could be very important for turning around what's happening at the state level and changing their priorities," he said.

But he warned that talk is one thing, while it's another altogether to get the measures passed and the funds allocated. In Kentucky, 1,000 fewer kids were in preschool last year as compared to 2011.

The full report is at NIEER.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY