Isn't it time that high-quality pre-kindergarten is considered part of education in our country? One place to start is the way we fund schools.
In 13 states and the District of Columbia, pre-k programs are financed through the school funding formula. Pre-K Now’s recent report, Formula for Success, discusses the benefits and challenges of integrating early education into states' general education funding structures and explores the different models for using this strategy.
As the report states, “When designed to support both quality and access over the long term, school funding formulas can enable states and districts to build, grow and sustain high-quality early learning programs.”
While states can build effective programs without choosing this funding strategy, they typically lack the security and sustainability that allows formula-supported programs to expand access while maintaining high levels of quality.
Strategic, dedicated pre-k funding and incentives from the federal government could encourage more states to include pre-k in their school funding formulas by leveraging state investments that provide stability, enhance quality and improve access.
With the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the law formally known as No Child Left Behind) up for renewal, it’s an opportune time to consider the best way to form a state-federal partnership that would access federal dollars to strengthen high-quality pre-k programs that close the achievement gap and help students succeed.
It will be great to see if Congress crafts a new bill to propel us into the 21st century’s second decade with an education system built to produce an innovative, capable and confident workforce. In 2001, No Child Left Behind had a landslide victory because it was politically useful to both representatives and senators. Besides, no one would want to be “the lawmaker who wanted to leave kids behind.” But in some cases it weakened states’ assessments and accountability systems and inadvertently lowered standards.
The federal reauthorization of the ESEA provides a vital opportunity to support states in building a strategic reform agenda that begins with high-quality pre-k.
Let your member of Congress know that you think pre-k is an important educational reform strategy that needs explicit funding in the most important federal education law, the ESEA.
You can do that by sending them a message here.
It’s time to make pre-k part of education!