Legislative study urges $14 million increase in state pre-K funding | Arkansas Blog

Monday, November 17, 2014

Legislative study urges $14 million increase in state pre-K funding

Posted By on Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 4:39 PM

click to enlarge KIZZIA: Pushed hard for better pre-K, but he won't be around in 2015
  • KIZZIA: Pushed hard for better pre-K, but he won't be around in 2015
The Joint Education committee of the legislature this afternoon reviewed an interim study by Rep. David Kizzia (D-Malvern) regarding Arkansas's early childhood education programs, which include Head Start and the state-funded Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Only 56 percent of eligible children in this age group are served by a pre-K program, the study says, largely because funding for ABC has remained flat since 2008. When accounting for inflation, that's essentially amounted to a year-by-year decline in state support.

It'd take $14 million to bring ABC funding back up to 2008 levels, and that's not even touching the cost of expanding the program to include more children.

Kizzia framed the need for pre-K in startlingly sharp language. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds "have their noses pressed up against the glass of the American Dream, and they can't get there," he said. "It's by accident of birth. They've committed no crime." He recalled Tantalus, a character in Greek myth who made a gruesome sacrifice of his own child to the gods and was condemned to eternal punishment as a result.

As added ammunition, Kizzia and Jerri Derlikowski of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families brought in the voices of a couple of GOP legislators who hail from conservative states that have nonetheless pumped money into improving pre-K. Slade Blackwell, a Republican state senator from Alabama, and Lee Denney, the Republican Speaker Pro Temp-elect from Oklahoma, both told the committee of major gains made in their respective states thanks to renewed commitment to early childhood ed. 

"Our program last year was rated number one in the nation in quality," said Blackwell. "In 2013, every third grader who attended pre-K scored proficient in reading." The Republican legislature in Alabama has added money each year for several years running, he said. "We'll probably add another $10-15 million this year."

For years, Oklahoma has been recognized for the quality of its pre-K. Denney said the state began piloting a program in the 1980s and began making it available to all parents in 1998 (although universal, it's not compulsory).

"We have given another $10 million every year in the state of Oklahoma," she said. Oklahoma has recently dedicated another $33.6 million to the project, some of which pays for home visits to new parents and a social worker program that works with mothers. "We want to decrease our incarceration rates down the road," said Denney.

It's a hopeful sign to hear Republican legislators from two very red states talk enthusiastically about early childhood education. On the campaign trail, Arkansas governor elect Asa Hutchinson has said he wants to fund ABC as it currently exists, although he indicated little interest in expanding the program's eligibility to include more children. I asked him at a press conference last week whether pre-K was still a priority in light of less-than-stellar revenue reports, a litany of other education and prisons needs, and his own desire to cut taxes. It's still a priority, he said, but wouldn't say exactly how much more money he's prepared to commit to ABC.

Kizzia, who has been one of the legislature's most outspoken and consistent advocates for pre-K, was among the many Democratic casualties of the midterm election. He'll be replaced in January by Republican Laurie Rushing. Still, with Democrats choosing the House education committee as a place to make a stand, and some Republicans supportive of prioritizing early childhood education, expect someone to keep raising this issue in 2015.

Tags: , , , ,


Sign up for the Daily Update email
Favorite

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

Readers also liked…

  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • French Hill votes against disaster aid to Puerto Rico

    Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill alone among Arkansas's House delegation voted last week against a measure that provided $36.5 billion in disaster aid, a portion  for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico as well as money for wildfire response and to support the flood insurance program.
    • Oct 14, 2017
  • Free Zinn book for Arkansas teachers

    Arkansas teachers! Get your free Howard Zinn book here! Whether Kim Hendren likes it or not.
    • Mar 3, 2017

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Slideshows

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation