Despite widespread fiscal distress, leaders of both parties in a majority of states supported high-quality pre-kindergarten investments in FY11, increasing total funding slightly, by just over 1 percent, to $5.4 billion, according to an analysis of voluntary state pre-k programs by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia protected their pre-k investments from budget cuts. Notably, more than half did so with control of the executive and legislative branches split between the two major parties, according to the nonpartisan annual report, “Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2011.”
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia increased their pre-k investments. In four of the states, Republicans controlled both the executive and legislative branches; in another three states and the District, Democrats controlled both branches; and in the remaining eight states control was split between the two branches.
State lawmakers of both parties continue to send a clear message that pre-kindergarten is a valued education reform strategy and a smart policy, even in a tough economy. As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a decade of bipartisan state efforts on pre-k provide an effective model for building political consensus around research-backed policies.
“Legislators have consistently found common ground in their support of early childhood education,” said Marci Young, director of Pre-K Now. “When Congress debates ESEA renewal, members should study how states have built robust pre-k systems with champions from both parties.”
“Votes Count” reviewed fiscal year 2011 funding and legislative action on state pre-k programs to determine which legislatures count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform strategies.
The report also shows how federal funds can encourage new state investments to establish a strong foundation for student achievement over the long term. Strapped states such as Maine have applied resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to sustain, expand and improve pre-k programs. Additionally, analysis from 2010 Race to the Top (RTTT) applications reveals more than half of the winning applications included pre-k in two or more of the four education reform areas. Tennessee and Florida, two states awarded RTTT grants, included substantive early learning components in their applications.
“In pressing budget times, states have even more reason to invest in pre-k because it's a proven reform,” Young added. “When looking to turn around underperforming schools, narrow achievement gaps among children from different backgrounds and save money on costly remediation, many states have wisely started their education reform plans with high-quality pre-k.”
Key Findings Include:
Research shows that high-quality pre-k helps narrow the achievement gap, reduces grade repetition and special education placements, increases high school graduation rates, reduces crime and delinquency and leads to greater employment and higher earnings as adults.
To access the full report, please visit http://www.preknow.org/votescount
Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, is a leading voice in the movement for voluntary high-quality pre-kindergarten for three and four year olds. Designed as a catalytic ten-year effort to spur growth in an emerging education policy arena, Pre-K Now uses four decades of evidence showing early learning programs help all children succeed to drive policy changes at the state and federal level.