2011 State of Preschool: Another Assault on Early Childhood

Apr 10, 2012

By Stephanie Schmit

Today, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its latest Preschool Yearbook, which finds investment in pre-kindergarten fell in 2011, illustrating yet another assault to early childhood education.  Early childhood programs like pre-kindergarten and child care provide children with a strong foundation to thrive in school and throughout life.

Although enrollment in pre-kindergarten programs over the last 10 years has increased, funding has slipped -- leaving programs supporting additional children with less money and making it difficult to ensure program quality. Adjusted for inflation, state funding for pre-K programs plummeted by more than $700 per child over the past nine years. To make matters worse, the number of states conducting regular site visits of pre-kindergarten programs-essential to maintaining quality settings -fell for the second year in a row.

Pre-kindergarten is not the only early childhood program fighting for adequate investment. Many other early childhood programs, including child care, are struggling to maintain children in high quality settings due to lack of investment at the state and federal levels. The administration estimates that child care assistance may soon serve as many as 200,000 fewer children as it did in previous years.

A pre-kindergarten program with high-quality standards is a key component of a comprehensive early care and education system that supports the learning and development of children from birth through the age of school entry and complements the entire system. State pre-kindergarten helps to bring additional funding to child care centers when states deliver their pre-k programs through a mix of schools and community-based providers and importantly, this funding and the standards associated with pre-k programs can help raise the bar on quality child care.

CLASP believes high-quality pre-kindergarten addresses the developmental needs of all children, which requires: sufficient funding to attract and retain qualified teachers; comprehensive health services for families needing them, including developmental screenings and follow-up treatment; and infrastructure supports to ensure ongoing monitoring and quality improvement.

Recent state trends documented in the NIEER report undercut efforts to maintain quality and ensure that programs are able to meet the developmental needs of children.  We encourage states to implement policies that integrate early learning program standards, including pre-kindergarten standards, into child care settings to support quality programs for all children. We also encourage states to fully invest in early childhood programs to fully support the developmental needs of all children. Child care, Head Start and pre-kindergarten all play a vital role in the early childhood system, and need to be strengthened to support the needs of all children.

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