Governors in 20 states have proposed increasing aid for early-childhood education programs in their fiscal 2006 budgets, a second annual report that tracks spending on pre-K programs has found.
At this time last year, 11 governors were recommending such increases, the report adds.
Released April 21 by Pre-K Now, a Washington-based advocacy organization, the report highlights five governors identified by the group as heroes because they “have overcome significant budget challenges to keep their promises to increase pre-K investment.”
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, for example, has proposed a 20 percent increase—from $51.6 million to $62 million—for the state’s School Readiness Initiative, in spite of a $1 billion budget deficit.
And in Illinois, Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has proposed a $30 million increase for the state’s Early Childhood Block Grant, showing that he intends to fulfill a promise to give three successive increases of that amount dating back to fiscal 2003. Roughly 90 percent of the aid has been earmarked for the state’s pre-K program for disadvantaged children, while the rest pays for services for infants and toddlers.
The other three governors singled out for their work are Republican Linda Lingle of Hawaii, Tom Vilsack of Iowa, a Democrat, and Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, also a Democrat.
“Effective strategic use of a leadership position in support of outstanding public policy is the mark of a great governor, and pre-K is just the kind of policy great governors are pursuing,” the report says.
Coming Up Short
The authors also point to states where they say governors have failed to make budget plans that live up to their talk about making school readiness a priority.
In Missouri, for example, Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, is proposing an 11 percent cut to what was appropriated in fiscal 2005 for the state’s Preschool Project.
“Missouri does not have one of the worst budget crises in the nation, but other governors in similar situations have still made the smart choice to invest in pre-K,” the report says.
But Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Blunt, said the $14.8 million proposed for fiscal 2006 is actually more than the $13.4 million spent on the program in fiscal 2004.