Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Last week, Vermont passed legislation implementing statewide early education for all 3- and 4-year-olds. The bill received bipartisan support. Lawmakers cite equal educational opportunity as a primary goal, but also have a dollars and sense goal. Per the research, lawmakers hope the program will, in the long run, help more lower-income families pull themselves out of poverty. Kudos to Vermont. Slowly but surely, pre-k programs continue to expand. It gives me hope that the question is not whether we will have universal pre-k within a decade, but whether the federal government will help speed the trend or just add its name as an afterthought when we get close to the finish line.
To be clear, however, my comments are born of optism rather than a claim of victory. Just last month, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its 2013 State Preschool Yearbook. The report found states still underfunding preschool programs. NIEER's Executive Director, Steve Barnett, remarked: "Our nation has emerged from the recession, but preschool-age children are being left to suffer its effects. A year ago, our data showed a half-billion-dollar cut in funding for state pre-K and stalled enrollment. For 2012-2013, we find that enrollment is down and funding per child, while up slightly, remains stalled at near-historic lows."