Dear Commons Community,
Funding per student for state pre-school programs has reached its lowest point in a decade, according to The State of Preschool 2012, the annual yearbook released by Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research(NIEER). As reported in The Huffington Post:
“The 2011-2012 school year was the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K for America’s children,” the authors wrote. After a decade of increasing enrollment, that growth stalled, according to the report. Though the 2011-2012 school year marks the first time pre-K enrollment didn’t increase along with the rate of population change.
“The state of preschool was a state of emergency” in 2012, said Steve Barnett, NIEER’s director. Between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years, pre-K spending on state programs dropped by more than $548 million overall, and $442 per student (to $3,841) when adjusted for inflation, according to the report.
This means state pre-K funding per child has fallen more than $1,100 in real dollars from 2001-2002. “That’s the lowest since we’ve been tracking pre-K,” Barnett said. He called the cuts “severe” and “unprecedented.” This is the first time NIEER has seen average, per-student spending slip below $4,000…
Early childhood education has been tied to better life outcomes. In 2012, several police chiefs highlighted the need for more and better preschool as a tool for long-term crime reduction. University of Chicago professor James Heckman, a Nobel prize-winning economist, has demonstrated that every dollar spent on quality early childhood education yields a 7 to 10 percent return on investment as students graduate and begin contributing to the economy.”
The data show a situation so dire that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated: “Our youngest learners will not be college- and career-ready if we slash preschool dollars…”
This is indeed a dire situation. Maybe Secretary Duncan should direct some of the funds for testing and national database development to pre-school programs.