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Study Shows Narrow Majority of States Protecting Pre-K in FY 11

The Pew-funded research and advocacy group Pre-K Now released its annual report today on state prekindergarten, Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 11.

The report shows that overall state spending on prekindergarten programs grew by one percent, to $5.4 billion, and that 26 states, plus the District of Columbia, protected pre-K from budget cuts. Among these, 15 states and the District actually increased their expenditures. In eight of those 15 states, neither party had full control of the executive and legislative branches; in four, both were controlled by Republicans; and only three were fully controlled by Democrats.

Increasingly, states are folding pre-K into their general education formulas to secure a steady source of funds. Currently, nine states and the District fund pre-K in this way. Pre-K Now's report includes a graph that shows these states have seen substantial growth in their pre-K funding compared with states that have not chosen this funding mechanism. Rhode Island is the latest state to join this trend, with a new K-12 funding formula that includes pre-K starting in 2012 and gradually increases funding to $10 million by 2022. The most impoverished districts will get first dibs on the new pre-K money.

At the same time, some states that have led the charge for pre-K find themselves stalled by the economy or at a crossroads of leadership.

New Mexico has been a leader in pre-K, and studies show New Mexico's program has had positive results for children's learning, but the weak economy has undermined such efforts.

Iowa has been on the forefront of universal preschool, but one-third of Iowa 4-year-olds still lack access to a high-quality preschool experience. While outgoing Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, championed universal preschool, Republican Gov.-elect Terry Branstad has indicated he'd prefer to target services to families in poverty.

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