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Preschool Quality

The quality of the nation’s subsidized preschools



State support for government-subsidized preschools is slipping after years of steady progress, a national research institute concluded in an annual report released Monday night.

Despite $127 million in federal stimulus funds, state spending for pre-kindergarten programs dropped by almost $60 million in 2010-11, according to the annual State of Preschool report published by the National Institute for Early Education Research. From 2001 to 2011, spending per child declined by about $700 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

“We’ve got to get preschool education right in this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in response to the report. “We know these are tough economic times, but we know there are smart ways, and not-so-smart ways, to trim funding.”

In California — one of the first states to offer subsidized preschool — the financial picture for early education has grown even starker than is reflected in the report. During the 2011-12 budget cycle, California cut its preschool funding by $70 million. Now, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing state preschool reductions of $180 million, or 23 percent.

Preschool California, a nonprofit organization that promotes early education, said the total cuts proposed for childhood development programs amount to $517 million, or 62,000 spaces. “This year is by far the largest proposal of cuts to child care and development that we’ve seen,” said Scott Moore, a senior policy adviser for Preschool California.

That unprecedented budget proposal came just a month after the U.S. Department of Education awarded California a $52 million Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge grant to improve its pre-kindergarten programs through a statewide quality rating and improvement system.

As it is, California’s state preschool requirements meet just three of the 10 benchmarks on the State of Preschool report’s quality checklist, which includes low student-teacher ratios, curriculum standards, student assessments, health screenings and staff qualifications and training.

Read more here.

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