Pew Report: Iowa Protects Pre-Kindergarten Investments Amid Budget Crisis

Dec 08, 2010, 09:02 ET from The Pew Center on the States

Strong leadership from new policy makers required to reach goal of pre-k-for-all

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Iowa legislature appropriated $16.2 million in "start-up" funds for new pre-kindergarten programs in FY11, moving the state closer to its goal of providing quality pre-k for all four year olds by 2011, according to an analysis released today by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.  

Iowa joined the majority of states across the country in showing support for voluntary pre-kindergarten investments in FY11. Total pre-k investments for all states came in at $5.4 billion, increasing slightly, by just over 1 percent.

The high-quality Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children is supported through the school funding formula, and investments have grown substantially over the past four years to reflect increasing enrollment. The state's pre-k program is projected to serve about 50 percent of four year olds in FY11, and new funding will support another increase in enrollment this year, bringing the total to about 20,000 children across 90 percent of the state's school districts.

"Iowa is on the verge of providing pre-k for all four year olds in the state," said Marci Young, director of Pre-K Now. "Strong leadership from new policy makers is required to continue the momentum and see the pre-k-for-all plan through to completion."

Iowa lawmakers still have work to do to ensure the program will be available to all children in the future and at a level of quality that can maximize the returns on the state's significant investments. The program generally adheres to high quality standards, but local districts are only required to provide 10 hours of pre-k per week, less than the typical state pre-k program provides.

"The quality of early childhood education systems has become a key economic development issue in this country, and quality early childhood education should be available to all of Iowa's children," said Elliott G. Smith, executive director of the Iowa Business Council. "For every dollar invested in a child's pre-k education, a return of at least seven dollars occurs over time.  Limited dollars mean that policy makers should continue to invest wisely in early education, and we know this program works."

The nonpartisan annual report, "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2011," reviewed action on publicly funded pre-k programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine which legislatures count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform strategies.

Research shows that high-quality pre-k helps narrow the achievement gap, reduces grade repetition and special education placements, increases high school graduation rates, reduces crime and delinquency and leads to greater employment and higher earnings as adults.

For more details about "Votes Count," please visit http://www.preknow.org/votescount/ia.cfm

Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, is a leading voice in the movement for voluntary high-quality pre-kindergarten for three and four year olds. Designed as a catalytic ten-year effort to spur growth in an emerging education policy arena, Pre-K Now uses four decades of evidence showing early learning programs help all children succeed to drive policy changes at the state and federal level.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. www.pewcenteronthestates.org

SOURCE The Pew Center on the States



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