In a recession-altered world where state leaders struggle to maintain their constitutional commitments to public education, early-childhood programs—popular, valued, but largely discretionary—find themselves on treacherous fiscal ground.
For a decade, at least, efforts to expand state-financed early-childhood education have gained momentum nationally, with 40 states now paying for some form of prekindergarten. The initiatives range from small pilot projects in such states as Rhode Island to Oklahoma’s universal, voluntary program funded through the state’s K-12 education formula.
The good news for early-education advocates: The recession slowed but failed to stop those efforts. In fiscal 2011, 26 states have maintained or increased their investments in pre-kindergarten programs, according to Pre-K Now , a Washington-based research and advocacy arm of the Pew.