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Report: Virginia needs to do better on early education

May 13, 2016
AccessGovernance and AccountabilityQuality and CurriculumState & Local
Dan Heyman
Public News Service

Virginia isn’t doing a good job on early education, according to a new report that says the state continues to lose ground, both in terms of access and funding. Steve Barnett, director for the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, is one of the authors of “The State of Preschool 2015.” He says Virginia’s early ed funding was cut starting in the recession and is still falling. As a result, Barnett says fewer than one in five state preschoolers can get into a program.

“There’s a wall – the kindergarten door,” says Barnett. “On one side of it, every child’s entitled. On the other – well, it’s entirely discretionary. And unfortunately, that’s where the biggest inequalities are.” In a time of tight budgets, many state lawmakers say they have to make tough choices. Barnett agrees it can be hard to find the resources for good preschool. But he says Virginia already ranks in the lower half of states, and its ranking continues to erode. In the last budget, Gov. Terry McAuliffe increased school funding, but that was largely for public K-through-12 education.