Tuesday, April 26, 2011

State of Preschool report

The National Institute for Early Education Research released their annual State of Preschool report today.  Covering the 2009-2010 school year, it looks at spending, enrollment, quality control, and other important factors of state-funded preschool in all 50 states.

The report notes that there have been modest gains in some states, and others have mostly held steady.  But -
"The 2009-2010 school year was the first tracked by NIEER in which total state funding for pre-K fell from the prior year. State spending per child decreased by $114. The decrease in inflation-adjusted spending per child was on top of another modest decrease the year before. The funding situation for pre-K may get worse even as the economy slowly recovers."
 In other words, in several states (including CA), it was only ARRA money that kept our spending levels up.  And as the LA Times noted today:
"Seeking to fill a $26.6-billion budget gap, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that imposes a 15% across-the-board cut in subsidized child care and early learning programs as well as other program changes that take effect July 1.

In addition, Brown signed legislation to shift $1 billion from state and county First 5 programs, which are paid for by tobacco-tax funds. Several local agencies filed a lawsuit to block the shift."
Just another example of slashing programs for the young and poor, demonstrating that politicians seem unable to take the long - and rational - view.  Research has proven over and over how important early childhood programs are in narrowing the achievement gap and getting kids ready to learn and read when they enter school.  And kids who do well in school from the beginning are more likely to graduate from high school - meaning they won't be filling the prisons that are costing us so much.

This makes me even more convinced that the work libraries are doing promoting early literacy to parents and caregivers is more important than ever.  And clearly we need to think about taking this message to our elected officials as well.

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