Budget cuts have trickled all the way down to early-childhood education, as funding for these programs has decreased between 2009 and 2010, according to a study published in the Washington Post.
The Obama administration urged states to increase their pre-kindergarten programs for three- and four-year-olds, but there simply wasn’t enough funding to meet the president’s request.
Total-state funding for these programs dropped about $30 million across the nation. Many states are putting most or all of their funding dollars in K-12. So, decreasing funding for early-childhood education has helped many states preserve funding for K-12, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, based at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan also urged states to decrease funding for other programs before cutting spending on early-childhood education, but to no avail as states nationwide dismissed his and President Obama’s requests.
Duncan said that the cuts present “real challenges to young people who are desperately fighting to enter the mainstream.”
In 2010, 26% of four-year-olds were enrolled in pre-Kindergarten, which is significantly less than the government’s goal. Forty states have these programs, all according to the National Institute for Early Education Research study.
“Overall, state cuts to pre-K transformed the recession into a depression for many young children,” the study said.
The report’s authors noted that this could potentially be just the beginning of smaller funding for early-childhood education. Funding could drop more as federal stimulus funds expire soon, causing even more budget cuts.
In 2010, state funding per child for pre-Kindergarten programs was nearly $700 below the 2001-2002 level, according to the study.
Many education experts have expressed serious concern about America’s future students. America’s education system is already lagging behind many foreign countries’. Decreased funding at early-childhood levels could hold the American education system back for years, according to some.
Also, the government is striving to once again become the leader in producing college graduates by 2020. However, cutting funding at this level could slow students down and decrease their education ambitions, both of which could hinder the government’s goal.
“This is the most important investment we can make,” Duncan said. “The long-term dividends are tremendous.”