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Pew Report Applauds Alaska Lawmakers for Investing in High-Quality Pre-K

New Program is an Important Step Toward Educational Success and Economic Recovery

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Although Alaska faced a budget gap of more than 30 percent, the legislature became one of two states to approve new pre-kindergarten programs this year, according to a state-by-state analysis released today by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States. The new pilot removes Alaska from the "pre-k wilderness" where only ten states remain without publicly-funded pre-k.

"While this is an important step for Alaska, the state's economic future and its young children deserve a program that is more than a one-time investment," said Marci Young, project director of Pre-K Now. "To avoid cancellation after only one year, high quality pre-k should become part of a steady funding stream - such as the school funding formula. This would protect pre-k funding in the future and allow for the program to increase and serve more families in Alaska during these tough times."

The non-partisan annual report, "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2010," evaluates state budgets to determine which legislatures count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform strategies. Using this information, Americans can determine whether their elected leaders are committing the resources necessary to develop the successful students and workers central to economic recovery.

Even as they confronted large budget gaps of up to 35 percent, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia chose to increase or hold steady funding for pre-k programs in the coming fiscal year. "Votes Count" also sheds light on one particular funding strategy for early education - the school funding formula. States that include pre-k in their school funding formula allocate per-child funding for 4-year-olds based on enrollment, just as they do for K-12 schools.

The report highlights how Alaska lawmakers voted to support a pre-k pilot and initial funding of $2 million. The Alaska Pilot Pre-Kindergarten Project (AP3) provides for comprehensive services, collaborative program delivery in a range of settings and high quality standards for teacher education, class sizes and adult-child ratios.

Highlights of this year's analysis include:
-- Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia increased or are
projected to increase pre-k investments by a total of more than $187
million.
-- Thirteen legislatures increased investment in existing programs by
nearly $130 million: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado,
Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon,
Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
-- Two states that previously had no state pre-k programs approved
pilot initiatives: Alaska and Rhode Island.
-- Nine states and the District of Columbia anticipate increases
through the school funding formula (Texas is included in this
group as well but counted only once in the tally of 23 states with
increased investments).
-- Six states maintained investments at FY09 levels: Delaware, Kentucky,
Minnesota, Missouri Nevada and Pennsylvania.
-- Among the states suffering the 10 worst budget shortfalls (measured as
a percentage of the budget), only Connecticut and New York approved a
cut to early education programs.
-- Ten states decreased funding: Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South
Carolina and Washington.
-- Ohio's cut is estimated to deny pre-k to the largest number of
children, at least 12,000.
-- Arizona had not finalized its pre-k budget at press time.

Pre-k is one of the most well-researched public education strategies of the last forty years. The vast body of evidence shows that quality early learning helps children succeed in school and in life, and results in savings to states for every dollar invested. Children who complete quality pre-k programs are more academically and socially prepared when they enter school, less likely to be held back or need special education services, and more likely to complete high school and contribute to their community as adults. For more details about "Votes Count," please visit www.pewcenteronthestates.org/preknow.

About the Pew Center on the States and Pre-K Now
Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, collaborates with advocates and policymakers to lead a movement toward high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds.

The Pew Center on the States (www.pewcenteronthestates.org), a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts, identifies and advocates effective policy approaches to critical issues facing the states. The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

Source: Pew Center on the States

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