About Us    |   More News
April 10, 2012

For the second straight year, many states have reduced preschool funding, access and quality for the nation's 3- and 4-year-old children, according to data in the "2011 State of Preschool Yearbook," released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

Even more states continue to deprive millions of young children of access to the single education reform that experts and educators agree is essential to closing K-12 achievement gaps for low-income children and children of color: a well planned, high quality preschool program starting at age 3.

The disturbing trends documented in the 2011 Yearbook reflect the stark reality that lawmakers in many state capitals continue to resist making the investments necessary to build comprehensive programs to deliver high quality early education integrated into their states' K-12 public education systems. Even more troubling is the evidence that, when faced with dips in the economy, lawmakers will not hesitate to cut funding for pre-K, despite research demonstrating the gains made by children who have access to high quality early education.

A few states are bucking the trend, thanks to court rulings that have prodded governors and legislators to make and sustain investments in preschool programs. Most notable is New Jersey, where the NJ Supreme Court over a decade ago directed the State to provide "well planned, high quality" preschool to all 3- and 4-year old children in poor communities. Over 45,000 children are now enrolled in Head Start and child care provider and public school classrooms, funded through the State's K-12 school finance formula, with certified teachers delivering a developmentally appropriate curriculum linked to the state's K-12 academic standards. While NJ lawmakers have delayed an expansion of the program, the court rulings have ensured continuation of stable and adequate funding, making NJ's "Abbott Preschool Program" a national model.

State court rulings in Arkansas and North Carolina have advanced access to preschool in those states as well. In Colorado, a recently concluded trial resulted in a court ruling that recounted the great benefits of high quality preschool and reported key weaknesses in the Colorado pre-K program. The court, in Lobato v. State of Colorado, found that the State's programs do not provide access to enough children and lack crucial features to meet quality standards. This court decision is currently on appeal.

"We all know that low-income children start kindergarten far behind their more affluent peers, and that we cannot narrow, let alone close, achievement gaps unless all children have access to high quality preschool at ages 3 and 4," said David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center, and lead counsel in the landmark Abbott v. Burke education equity case.

"It's high time the states expanded the legal right to education to include quality early education for all 3- and 4-year-old children, as well as full-day kindergarten," Mr. Sciarra said. "Without a legal guarantee to early education, disadvantaged children will be deprived of access to the single most effective education reform, and our nation will lag behind our global competitors."

Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

Copyright © 2012 Education Law Center. All Rights Reserved.