Preschools saw a sharp drop in funding over the last year as states still recovering from the recession have struggled to provide money for the nation’s youngest students.
With the funding drop, enrollment in US preschools also stalled in the past year. Education experts detailed their findings in a report released on Monday.
The study shows a record drop of more than half a billion dollars in state funding during the 2011-2012 school year from the year before that. The report also found that the percentage of three- and four-year-olds enrolled didn’t grow. Overall, 1.3 million children attended state-run preschools between 2011 and 2012.
US Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated that he is concerned about the across-the-board federal spending cuts called sequestration, which started last month. Duncan explained that the cuts will likely affect state education budgets. He added, “We have some hard work to do.”
The study was done by Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research. At the time of the study, 10 states did not offer preschool. However, Mississippi enacted a law in April that supports preschool education. Monday’s report showed the drop in preschool funding, along with problems with access to preschool.
The report, which was published on Monday, also showed that there is a quality issue in the education. Steven Barnett, the director of the Rutgers-based institute, explained, “Not only are we stalled, but it really matters what your zip code is.” Few states meet the institute’s 10 benchmarks to assess quality.
Benchmarks include teacher training, learning standards, and class size. The problems are mostly caused by funding cuts. States that fared best were Alabama, Alaska, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. States that met the least amount of qualities were California, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Vermont.
State funding per child fell by more than $400 to $3,84` per child overall. The It was the first year such funding dropped below $4,000 per student. Advocates for preschool education say that reaching three- and four-year-olds can help boost their development and also increase how competitive they are in the job market later on in life.
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