There’s one bright spot in this ongoing recession, and we’re not talking about the Dow breaking 10,200. A new report from the advocacy group Pre [k] now says that, despite severe budget shortfalls, states have increased pre-k funding by more than $64 million.
“In light of the tough fiscal environment, the news for young children is surprisingly good,” writes Susan K. Urahn, managing director of The Pew Center on the States, Pre [k] now’s parent organization, in a letter accompanying the report.
Fifteen states increased pre-K funding, and nine others and the District of Columbia expect spending increases through school funding formulas, the report says. Texas, which has a school funding formula, also saw a legislative increase. Funding remained the same for six states. And just 10 state legislatures cut pre-K spending. (One state’s budget not completed in time for the report.)
Despite this relatively good news, the report criticizes states like Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois for cutting preschool funding. Those decisions “will cost thousands of young children the opportunity to enter kindergarten better prepared,” the report says. ” At the same time, rising unemployment and declining economic security mean families are even more in need of publically funded programs like quality early learning.”
The national economic picture might be slowly improving, but state budgets “are projected to get worse before they get better,” the report says. In such a climate, it might be easier, politically, to cut funding for poor children, who don’t vote and can’t match the lobbying power of wealthier and well-placed interest groups. But to do so would hurt our nation’s long-term economic health and prevent thousands of disadvantaged children from reaching their potential.
Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor