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Cities Taking on Early Childhood Education Role

For this week's issue of Education Week, I explored New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's efforts to expand prekindergarten offerings in the city. De Blasio, a Democrat, campaigned on a promise to offer full-day preschool to all of the city's 4-year-olds through a tax on city residents earning $500,000 a year or more. The idea has proven to be very popular, with 68 percent of city residents supporting the plan, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. 

New York lawmakers have promised for years to pay for full-day preschool, but finding the money has been a challenge for state lawmakers. De Blasio's efforts, if Albany grants him taxing authority, will allow the city to steer its own path on this issue. 

But city leaders aren't the only politicians who are paying more attention to early childhood education. State leaders are devoting more money to the issue, according to a recent report from the Denver-based Education Commission of the States that was covered by my colleague Andrew Ujifusa over at State EdWatch. Nationwide, states appropriated $364 million more to early education in fiscal 2014 than they did in the previous fiscal year, according to an analysis from ECS. 

And states that previously had no publicly-funded preschool program are dipping a toe in the early learning waters. For example, last year, Mississippi made a $3 million first-time investment in pre-K, leaving 10 states that have no state funding for early education. But politicians in one of those states, Idaho, said in a Monday press conference that they are considering a small pilot program for prekindergarten. 

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