Last year, total state funding for preschool declined by nearly $30 million, according to the annual yearbook recently released by the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER.
Per-pupil funds declined in 19 of 40 states, according to the 2010 report. It credits the federal economic-stimulus program with cushioning preschool from worse drops, but cautions that further decline is likely as stimulus funds run out.
As spending decreased, so did progress raising quality, the report found. Overall, four states improved on NIEER’s Quality Standards Checklist, but two others lost ground. No existing state pre-K programs made advances in meeting NIEER’s benchmarks for teacher qualifications and training, the most difficult standards for states to meet.
Only four states met all 10 of the center’s benchmarks: Alabama, Alaska, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Two of them—Alaska and Rhode Island—had small pilot programs that debuted in 2010. NIEER calculates that only 17 states provide enough funding to support meeting all 10 benchmarks.
Despite the funding decline, the number of 4-year-olds enrolled in state preschool programs increased by nearly 27,000 to 27 percent of the nation’s 4-year-olds.
Currently, state programs serve about 31 percent of all U.S. 4-year-olds but only 8 percent of 3-year-olds. Only a handful of states make a concerted effort to serve 3-year-olds, and access for 3-year-olds overall fell by 3 percent.
A version of this article appeared in the May 11, 2011 edition of Education Week as State Preschool Funding Declined in 2010