Pew Report Finds Governors Protecting Pre-Kindergarten Programs Amid Budget Squeeze

Contact: Krissi Jimroglou, 202-540-6416,

WASHINGTON, DC - 05/20/2010 - In spite of widespread fiscal distress in states, FY11 budget proposals from the nation’s governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia keep overall state funding for pre-kindergarten near the previous year’s levels. Should all the governors’ budgets pass, state pre-k investments would remain at $5.3 billion, increasing by less than 0.2 percent, or slightly more than $8.2 million, according to a new report by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.

Leadership Matters: Governors’ Pre-K Budget Proposals Fiscal Year 2011 finds that access to state-funded high-quality pre-k remains largely dependent on where children live, with gubernatorial proposals ranging widely from significant expansion in Alabama to elimination in Arizona.

“Many state leaders continue to see pre-k as a smart reform strategy for improving public education that generates high returns on taxpayer investments even in a tough economy,” said Marci Young, project director of Pre-K Now. “To improve our schools, Congress should include incentives in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that strengthen state investments and capitalize on pre-k’s proven ability to multiply the effects of other education reforms.”

Highlights from this year’s report include:

  • Nine governors would increase pre-k investments. These proposals would increase funding for early learning in these states by a total of $78.5 million.
  • Three states and the District of Columbia anticipate an increase for pre-k through their school funding formulas.
  • Ten governors are proposing to flat fund pre-k. These proposals maintain funding for early learning at FY10 levels and include Alaska and Rhode Island, which both started new programs in FY10.
  • Twelve governors are proposing to decrease pre-k funding. In these states, early learning investments would decline by a total of $100.6 million.
  • Ten states provide no state-funded pre-k.
“Governors have had to cut many state programs to the bone during the recession, but our report shows that as a group they’ve tried to hold the line on pre-k because it’s cost-effective and yields solid returns,” said Young. “When they’re looking to turn around underperforming school districts and level the playing field for young children, many governors view pre-k as the first step in their education reform game plan.”

Pre-K Now’s annual report evaluates budget proposals for the coming school year and documents governors’ remarks in recent state of the state addresses to determine which leaders count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform and economic development strategies.

Pre-k played a prominent role in applications from 12 of the 16 states selected as Phase 1 finalists for Race to the Top competitive grants to promote school reform, and the report explores these and other creative state strategies to support early education using federal resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Research shows children who complete quality pre-k programs enter school more prepared cognitively, emotionally and socially, are less likely to be held back or need special education services and are more likely to complete high school and become successful and productive adults. States without pre-k programs miss out on these short- and long-term benefits.

This year’s Leadership Matters, with funding trend data, neighboring state comparisons and related news links, is available at:

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