A new report from the Education Commission of the States says that nationwide, state funding for prekindergarten services rose $364 million in fiscal 2014, a bump of 7 percent from fiscal 2013 up to about $5.6 billion, and that Michigan provided the largest total dollar increase for pre-K services, boosting its appropriation by $65 million (roughly 18 percent of the total nationwide increase).
“Compared to projections that overall state funding levels will increase by 4 percent in 2013-14 with large portions aimed at rising healthcare costs, Medicaid expansion, K-12 and higher education, and corrections, a nearly 7 percent increase in state pre-K funding is even more significant,” states the report, which was written by Emily Workman, Michael Griffith, and Bruce Atchison.
It was a good year for prekindergarten advocates around the country—as you can see from the map below, 30 states and the District of Columbia boosted their spending on prekindergarten, and 10 of those states increased their prekindergarten investments by over 20 percent. On the other side of the ledger, a total of 10 states, most of them west of the Mississippi River, have no dedicated state funding for pre-K services.
After Michigan, Texas provided the second-largest boost to prekindergarten of any state ($47.8 million), followed by South Carolina ($27.4 million) and New York ($25 million). However, in terms of states’ increases relative to their prior spending efforts, Massachusetts led the way by virtually doubling its pre-K investment, spending an additional $15.4 million. South Carolina’s higher spending was good for a 79.8 percent increase of their previous funding, while Minnesota, which passed new scholarship programs for 3- and 4-year-olds last year, boosted its effort by 76.2 percent.
The ECS report also highlights Mississippi for creating an entirely new prekindergarten spending program, a $3 million appropriation to be matched with locally raised or private funds. And New Mexico earmarked $9.75 million from a tobacco settlement fund for early child care and education programs.
Included in the ECS report is a chart with the “Heckman Equation” (from University of Chicago Professor James Heckman) showing that dollars invested towards the earliest years of a child’s development have the highest return on investment. But the validity of claims that state preschool programs like prekindergarten provide a clear, universal benefit for children has been challenged recently by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.