The budgets for state prekindergarten programs have increased or are expected to increase in more than half the 50 states this fiscal year, according to an annual report on legislative activity from Pre-K Now, a Washington-based advocacy group.
“Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2006" is posted by Pre-K Now, a Washington-based advocacy group.
The boost in funding—roughly $600 million nationwide—is the largest single-year increase in the past five years, says the report, which was released Nov. 16.
“These numbers are a clear indicator of strong momentum in the movement for high-quality, voluntary pre-K,” it says. “When legislators who understand the effects of high-quality pre-K partnered with forward-thinking governors, reasoned debate led to actions that benefited young children, schools, communities, and state budgets.”
The Southeast continues to lead the nation in expanding and paying for early-childhood education. Six of the 10 states that increased their fiscal 2006 pre-K budgets by more than 30 percent over the previous year are in that region.
Those states include Tennessee, which expanded its program this fiscal year with $35 million in additional money from state lottery proceeds, and Florida, which is spending $387 million to serve some 80,000 children in the first year of its universal pre-K program. The other states were Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.
In addition to serving more children, some states, including Connecticut, Texas, and Washington, allocated dollars to activities that support preschool, such as setting professional standards for teachers and creating assessment and evaluation systems.
But funding stayed level for preschool programs in three of the most populous states: California, Michigan, and New York.
Decreases in spending for some early-childhood services were felt in New Jersey and Vermont. While court-ordered funding for New Jersey preschools covered by the Abbott v. Burke school finance case in that state was expected to increase by about $11 million, to $455 million, cuts were expected for the Early Launch to Learning Initiative, which began in 2002 as a way to expand preschool to more children in non-Abbott districts.