Monday, April 13, 2009

Funding for Pre-K

A group that tracks how many kids are in government-funded preschool reports today that more than a million three and four-year-olds are heading to class now. And states are spending more to get them ready for kindergarten.
But we're in a recession. State budgets are tight. And as Tracie Potts reports advocates worry that even with stimulus money in the pipeline, the nation's youngest students may suffer.

The nation's top educator headed back to class today... Warning states against taking money from their youngest students: "we're not going to balance the budget on the backs of our young children. We just can't afford to do this."

All but 12 states pay for pre-k programs. The federal government also funds head start, for low-income kids. Last year, states added more than 100-thousand new preschoolers... And spent a billion more on them than the year before.

But with five billion in federal stimulus money on the way... At least nine states may cut their own funding... So there's little, if any, net benefit. Advocates say that would hurt the middle class. "Children whose families are just above the poverty line all the way up to the median income have less chance of being in a good preschool program than children in poverty. And for children in poverty, it's less than 50 percent."

The national institute for early education research looks not only at how many kids are in class... But the quality of those programs. Nine states improved this year. Only one fell back. Educators say it's important for kids to learn abcs and social skills before Kindergarten.

"While we think that kindergarten, oh we're starting them early - there's less of an achievement gap - the reality is that kids are coming in with a variety of experiences, vocabulary, exposure to books." Making it tough for teachers to get them all caught up, on the same level, in just nine months.

Nieer, the research group, is pushing for the federal government to match what states are spending... And for universal preschool for all four year olds, by the year 2020.

My son has friends who are reading-and pretty well! I was shocked by some of the words one of them knew a few months ago. They won't be in kindergarten until the Fall. It's hard to imagine a child like that in the same class as a child who hasn't learned the ABC's. I would think the child who is more advanced wouldn't end up accelerating as much as he could becaus e the teacher would have to spend her/his time catching up the other child. Maybe we need better preschool standards...

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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