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Report Calls for Increased Support for Pre-K, Child Care in Arkansas

Arkansas needs to expand access to quality prekindergarten and child-care programs to serve more of its most vulnerable families, according to a new report.

The report "Pre-k: Access to Success in Arkansas" was prepared by senior policy analyst Paul Kelly of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

The report notes that the state has made access to top-quality early-childhood education a priority through creation of state-run programs. State- and federally funded programs currently serve 47 percent of eligible 3-year-olds and 80 percent of eligible 4-year-olds, according to the report.

But reaching more kids, especially at-risk 3-year-olds, isn't possible because programs are at capacity or funding hasn't been increased. Kelly noted that these are the kids who can least afford to wait for more access to become available.

Another cause for concern: Only about 2 percent of infants and toddlers living in deep poverty are enrolled in good-quality, state- or federally funded care programs.

The report notes that the state has invested more than $111 million to expand its programs each year and improve standards of care. That's good news, but if Arkansas wants to keep its workforce competitive and improve the educational outcomes of its students, it needs to continue its investment in high-quality prekindergarten programming, the report said.

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