Sticking it to the little guy, literally
Tuesday is my usual day to post, as per our Failing Schools’ general agreement, so today I found myself without a clear topic in mind and surfing the web during my lunch break for current news on education. When what to my wondering eyes should appear…It seems that the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers just released its State Preschool Yearbook 2010 report, which indicates overall cuts in state funding of preschool programs across the country. Here’s a portion of today’s blog from NIEER’s Preschool Matters…Today!
For the first time since we began tracking state pre-K, total spending for the country fell in real (inflation adjusted) dollars. So did per-child spending, which now sits $700 below what states, on average, spent in the 2001–2002 school year.
Beyond the national averages, however, there’s a very mixed picture — some of it good, some bad and some downright ugly. First, the good: Enrollment increased nationally with nearly 1.3 million children attending state-funded preschool education. While the enrollment increase was not large, it does stand as testimony to the value many state leaders grappling with tough economies place on preschool education. Alaska and Rhode Island started programs for the first time – the first new states to provide pre-K in many years.
But there was plenty of bad news. After adjusting for inflation, state funding per child declined in 19 of 40 states with programs.
I did a little more exploration and found that the report findings had gotten some coverage in cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago . When I scrolled down to the comments on New York Times website I had to breathe a deep sigh of, (what is it?) disdain, and disgust at far too many of them. Most of the people who bother to comment are smug and nasty and they apparently don’t care if some little kids from less affluent households don’t get to go to preschool, whether studies show long term effects or not. I was thinking of my delightful young students, all of whom are Spanish-speaking Latinos and wondering about the nastiness that people might throw at them in their lives. Without actually quoting any of the idiots who think it’s a nifty idea to cut preschool funding, despite, or possibly because of, the Obama administration’s urging that early education remain a funding priority, I will summarize. It seems that some people consider early education little more than state-funded babysitting and what’s more, that if it weren’t for all those durned “illegals” sending their kids to school and draining state finances our schools would be just fine. Especially because they speak Spanish and all…
The reality is that all states are in a bind due to the recession, (and I’m reasonably sure the recession wasn’t caused by people who crossed the border illegally). Everybody has had to make painful cuts. However, cutting preschool funding seems a short-sighted plan, especially given the oft repeated but apparently hollow claim that “children are the future”. The report reflects 2009-10 cuts and cannot begin to address the cuts that we know are due in the upcoming year, which I fear will reflect even bleaker statistics for our youngest citizens. Children didn’t cause the recession but it certainly would help to have them all ready for school, developing language, social, and higher-level thinking skills that quality preschool programs seek to offer them. Instead, we’re sticking it to the littlest of the little and hoping it all works out, somehow. Ay, qué pena.