Pre-Kindergarten funding is in a precarious position. Over the last two years, more than $90 million has been trimmed from pre-K programs. And, as ARRA wells run dry, more cuts to this $5.5 billion enterprise are on the way. This while enrollment continues to creep up. That’s the news from this tenth yearbook by the National Institute for Early Education Research which, despite its name, must be counted as an advocacy outfit. The briefing is chockablock with statistics on enrollment, length of school day, class-size requirements, and more. But it tells us little about quality or efficiency, such as just how much bang are we getting for our preschool buck? (While the report does comment on pre-K quality, the metrics it uses are wholly input based; states that spend more on pre-K programming rank higher in quality.) As resources become ever scarcer throughout our education system, a rethink of how we fund preschool—and how we measure its quality and gauge its efficacy—is long past due.
W. Steven Barnett, Megan E. Carolan, Jen Fitzgerald, and James H. Squires, The State of Preschool 2011 (Newark, NJ: National Institute of Early Education Research, April 2012).