Research by early childhood stakeholders in New York and Ohio finds that expanding pre-K has the potential to improve the supply of high-quality child care in those and other states. Our recent research has found that child care providers participating in state funded pre-K report receiving additional funding, technical assistance, and support that enables them to offer enhanced educational services. In addition, school-based pre-K directors report that they can offer working parents services that both meet their needs for care and their children’s educational needs.
Yet much has changed since the policy brief was finalized. Both states have elected new governors and each is facing a fiscal crisis, the solution to which threatens early childhood education.
In New York, the governor’s budget proposes to maintain funding for its universal pre-K program at the 2010–11 level of $393 million with the full phase-in of the program statewide pushed back from 2013–14 to 2016–17. One state early childhood leader has reported that “Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts education and healthcare, which is no surprise as they are the largest budget items. Overall, his budget is not very good news for early childhood. While UPK (the state’s universal pre-K program) is not slated for cuts (level funded), and afterschool programs took a small cut, child care is reduced to the level of state funds required for matching federal dollars, and early intervention and home visiting have been hit hard.”
In Ohio, the picture appears to be more dire. Governor Kasich campaigned on a platform of reducing state spending and eliminating “unnecessary regulation.” When he took office, the state had already reduced early childhood financing by $280 million. Current estimates indicate that an additional $100 million reduction is expected. As one early childhood leader in the Ohio recently said, “We are 8 billion in the hole. We are keeping our fingers crossed but we know early childhood will take a hit.”
Early childhood leaders in both states are deeply committed to ensuring the school readiness of young children. To date, both states’ pre-K initiatives have helped prepare thousands of children from low-income working families for success in and beyond school. However, pre-K funding is not an automatic part of state funding formulas, and questions now exist about the future direction of pre-K in New York and Ohio.
In 2011, factors that New York and Ohio stakeholders identify as key to the quality and supply of child care for low-income working families—including stability of funding and authorizing legislation— are now in jeopardy. That means that, political rhetoric aside, each state’s continued advancement in meeting school readiness goals is now uncertain.
Diane Schilder, Ed.D.
Senior Research Scientist
Education Development Center, Inc.
The problem with the Universal Pre-K program in New York is that it is NOT universal and it is NOT reaching the children most in need. The program is funded by a state grant. The laws of the grant state that income can not be considered, children are selected by random lottery. Many needy children are losing spots to families that can well afford to pay for private preschool. They have been trying to implement this program for over 15 years without success. New York should change the laws of the grant and prioritize pre-k funding to those children most in need.
To learn more visit http://www.prioritizepre-k.com.