David Snyder

Research Continues to Find Early Learning Critical, But Funding Slows

The news earlier this month from the National Institute for Early Education Research's annual survey of state preschool spending was as predictable as it was disappointing: programs across the United States are having trouble serving all the students who qualify for pre-K programs, and budgets are being slashed. Although overall spending and enrollment is still rising, the pace of growth has slowed considerably, and demand is increasing as cash-strapped families rely more on publicly funded schools.

This news takes on more urgency as new research continues to prove the importance of kids' pre-K social and cognitive experiences on their achievement and behavior in school. The Education Week blog Inside School Research details the new results of a federally funded study that has tracked more than 1,300 kids since 1991:

It finds that children who were in poor-quality child-care settings at age 4-and-a-half, regardless of whether that care was being provided in a relative's home, a formal day-care center, or by a live-in nanny, had a slightly higher-than-average incidence of behavior problems that persisted until age 15. On the other hand, the children who had been in a high-quality child-care setting at the same age were more likely to excel in their academic studies well into their teenage years.

As demand goes up, funding slows in the states, and a steady drumbeat of research continues to show the importance of pre-K experiences, will the federal government step in to assist? Education Week reports that even though early learning funds failed to find their way into either the student loan overhaul or the health care bill, there is a chance that incentives for states to expand pre-K will make it into the coming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind.

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