More Than Half of U.S. Governors Prioritize Pre-K: Report Shows Dramatic Increase in Support, Historic Funding Requests for Early Childhood Education

More Than Half of U.S. Governors Prioritize Pre-K: Report Shows Dramatic Increase in Support, Historic Funding Requests for Early Childhood Education

A record-breaking 29 state executives are making pre-kindergarten a priority according to the annual state-by-state analysis of gubernatorial commitment to early childhood education released today by Pre-K Now. Leadership Matters: Governors' Pre-K Proposals Fiscal Year 2008 concludes that if approved, the governors' collective budget proposals would direct more than 800 million new dollars to pre-k in FY08 and provide more than 100,000 additional three and four year olds across the country with access to pre-k programs.

“Three years ago, only 11 of the nation's governors had pre-k on their policy and budgetary agendas, but the tide has turned and this year, 29 governors recognize the wisdom of this investment,” said Libby Doggett, Ph.D., executive director of Pre-K Now. “Forward-thinking leaders understand that pre-k not only achieves educational and social gains for children, it produces measurable economic benefits in cities and states nationwide.”

In recognition of the essential role that governors play in laying the fiscal and political groundwork for their state agendas, Pre-K Now has analyzed gubernatorial support – measured by mentions in state-of-the-state addresses and budget allocations – for pre-k across the 50 states since 2004. Among those highlighted as examples of pre-k leadership and vision, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was singularly recognized for bold leadership on behalf of young children. The report also calls attention to governors who failed to follow through on campaign promises or otherwise missed a vital opportunity to benefit children and invest in the future.

As a national trend, support for pre-k continues to gain momentum; FY08 marks the fourth consecutive year of proposed pre-k funding increases. However, some governors defy the simple economics of investing in their state's youngest learners: 12 flat funded their state's pre-k program or proposed funding that amounted to less than the federal Cost of Living Adjustment. Others failed to provide any funding for pre-k. This lack of leadership ultimately denies three and four year old children rich learning opportunities that have been proven to make the most of their developing brains.

Additional report findings include:

  • Governors in every region of the country proposed increases for pre-k while none proposed decreases; 
  • The national trend behind increased funding for pre-k enjoys bipartisan support: 9 out of the 22 Republican governors and 20 of the 29 Democratic governors proposed additional funds for pre-k in FY08; and 
  • Taken collectively, FY08 proposals for new pre-k dollars are 3 times the proposed increases of just one year ago.

“Whether you are a parent of a young child in Iowa, a teacher in Oregon, or a business leader in New York, this trend is good news. But we must not let our guard down; continued leadership on this issue is critical,” Doggett said. “It is now incumbent upon legislatures to demonstrate leadership on pre-k and fully fund or exceed these gubernatorial proposals.”