Even as President Obama launches a massive push to expand preschool opportunities for young children, early childhood education advocates are expressing dismay over a new report that access and per-pupil spending have hit 10-year lows.
The president's plan would expand opportunities for families that don't have the means to pay for private preschool programs but also earn too much to qualify for existing state programs aimed at children in poverty. Advocates contend that early education is an essential component to leveling the playing field for at-risk children, and to the nation's long-term economic well-being.
Here are a few of the sure-to-be-sound-bite statistics in the State of Preschool 2012 Yearbook, compiled by the National Institute for Early Education Research, which went so far as to call it a "state of emergency":
- Among the 40 states that offer pre-K programs, funding dropped by more than $548 million -- the largest one-year decline in a decade.
- Only 15 states and the District of Columbia provide enough funding for programs to meet all 10 of the institute's quality benchmarks.
- For the first time since the yearbook began in 2002, preschool enrollment nationally didn't increase enough to keep pace with population growth, a result of states not having enough seats to meet the need.