I recently wrote that early education is on the agenda in several states this year. Since then a number of other states, including Massachusetts, have joined the list and President Obama has called for universal access to preschool, starting with children from low- and moderate-income families.
Here –with a thank-you for round-ups from the National Institute for Early Education Research and Education Week – is a sample of what’s on the table in some other states. Note that the initiatives come from a bipartisan mix of Republican and Democratic governors.
- Alabama. Governor Robert Bentley (R) proposed expanding voluntary pre-kindergarten in his State of the State address. “Just 6% of 4-year-olds in Alabama are enrolled in First Class Pre-K,” Governor Bentley said. “That is why I am asking for increased funding and expansion of voluntary pre-k programs. Administered by the Office of School Readiness, local, voluntary pre-k programs may apply for grants but will be required to meet certain criteria. They will also be required to produce real results. We must close the achievement gap. Children and schools must be given every chance to succeed. I truly believe by allowing greater access to a voluntary pre-k education, we will change the lives of children in Alabama. There are schools in Alabama which are chronically failing, and we must address and turn them around.”
- Georgia. Governor Nathan Deal (R) has proposed bringing the state’s pre-kindergarten program back to 180 days, Ed Week reports, restoring cuts made two years ago.
- Indiana. Governor Mike Pence (R) “used his January 22 State of the State speech to propose expanding full-day kindergarten in the state, and to create a program that would provide a dollar-to-dollar match of private funds donated to preschool providers in the state,” Ed Week reports. “‘Let’s work together to expand incentives for Hoosiers to support this kind of innovative, community-driven pre-K effort for our low-income children,’ he said.”
- Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder (R) has proposed doubling enrollment in the state’s Great Start pre-kindergarten by 2015. He would invest an additional $130 million over the next two years, with a $65 million increase proposed for FY14, according to a news release. An estimated 29,000 children are eligible for Michigan’s state-funded Great Start Readiness pre-kindergarten program, but the program does not have the capacity to serve all of them. “I think it is important we make a major budget commitment to get as many kids as possible and get us on a path to getting all those kids in Great Start early childhood program,” Governor Snyder said in his State of the State address.
- Minnesota. Governor Mark Dayton’s (D) budget proposal includes $44 million over two years for early education scholarships for young children in low-income families. He also proposed $20 million for child care programs and $40 million for full-day kindergarten. “My new budget would expand significantly early learning opportunities for children statewide,” Governor Dayton said in his State of the State address.” My proposal to provide state funds for optional all-day kindergarten would provide a continuum of learning from early childhood into first grade and beyond.”
- Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant (R) has proposed a $3 million increase in funding for its Mississippi Building Blocks preschool program, and, Ed Week reports, the Legislature has OK’d bills that expand on the governor’s proposal. The result could be a state-funded pre-kindergarten program.
- Missouri. Governor Jay Nixon (D) is proposing $17 million in additional investments in early childhood that would more than double funding for the Missouri Preschool program, increase funding for Early Head Start by $3.5 million and provide $3.5 million in additional funding for grants to help early education and care providers improve. “Early childhood education is proven to boost achievement in school and improve opportunities later in life – in other words, it’s a smart investment with a big return,” Governor Nixon said in a news release. “These additional funds will help ensure that every young child in our state comes to school ready to learn and ready to succeed.”
- Ohio. Governor John Kasich (R) has proposed investing $180 million over two years to increase children’s access to early education in districts with large numbers of low-income students. “Quality early childhood programs improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged students,” the governor’s fact sheet states. “School districts with large populations of disadvantaged students, but limited access to early childhood programs, will receive additional resources in recognition of the additional supports these students often require in early the grades.”
- Oregon. Governor John Kitzhaber’s (D) 2013-15 budget recommendation includes proposals to “align funding outcomes and education strategies across the entire continuum of a child’s development – from birth to K-12 to postsecondary education and training” and to “streamline early childhood services and invest in Oregon kids from an early age so they are set up to succeed before they enter kindergarten.”