Federal Investment is Critical as Preschool Programs Face Decreased Funding, Stalled Enrollment

Apr 30, 2013

By Stephanie Schmit and Emily Firgens

As the early childhood community rallies around President Obama's recent budget proposal to expand access to high-quality early learning for young children, a critical foundation of that proposal - pre-kindergarten - continues to erode. The State of Preschool 2012 released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) this week reports that nationally, investments by states in pre-kindergarten programs have declined dramatically, dropping by over half a billion dollars from 2011 to 2012 - the largest one year funding drop since NIEER began collecting data in the 2001-2002 school year.

NIEER found that in 2012, states spent on average $3,841 per child in their preschool programs. Adjusted for inflation this is a $1,100 dollar decrease since 2001-2002. Twenty seven of the 40 states that offer state-funded pre-kindergarten programs cut spending in 2011-2012. As funding decreased, enrollment in programs showed little change - forcing programs to do more with less. Programs served 1,333,663 children in 2011-2012 compared to 1,323,128 children in 2010-2011. Nationally, state-funded pre-kindergarten programs enrolled the same percentage of children as last year-28 percent of 4-year-olds and 4 percent of 3-year-olds.  The District of Columbia served the highest number of both 3-and 4-year-olds, 69 percent and 92 percent, respectively. Florida and Oklahoma each served more than 70 percent of 4-year-olds in their state.

NIEER's annual Yearbook chronicles state investments and policies on state-operated preschool programs that provide early education at least two days per week to 3- and 4-year-olds. NIEER included state Head Start investments in its analysis, if those investments expanded access to services for additional children.

Across the country, greater investments in preschool programs are essential. Young, vulnerable children and their families depend on preschool and other child care and early education programs for critical support. To show our commitment to the investments the President is proposing for early learning, CLASP, together with our partners from the Strong Start for Children campaign, are collecting thank you notes from across the country and delivering them to the White House. 

We hope you will join us in thanking President Obama by mailing CLASP your hardcopy letters (a drawing or hand print by a child on your letter would be great) to deliver to the White House. Please send your letters and drawings by Thursday, May 2 to: Emily Firgens, CLASP, 1200 18th ST NW, Suite 200, Washington DC, 20036 or efirgens@clasp.org. Thank you, and please contact Emily Firgens at efirgens@clasp.org or 202-906-8031 if you have any questions.

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