A new report in Education Week‘s annual Quality Counts project looks at the changing landscape for prekindergarten policy across the states and suggests that there is a trend to incorporate PreK into K-12 budgets. The article also recaps an earlier report by PreK-Now, which found that, despite the dire economic situation most states are facing, prekindergarten programs aren’t faring too badly.
There are exceptions: California cut $256 million from its child care program and Arizona chopped its early childhood grant a couple of years ago, although legislators there failed in an attempt to appropriate money for K-12 education from a funding stream meant for PreK.
But elsewhere, prekindergarten is gradually becoming seen as a part of the K-12 system. As Maureen Kelleher writes: “A nascent trend is to include PreK in state K-12 education finance formulas, thus guaranteeing a steadier funding source than annual appropriations—something that proves especially valuable during recessionary times.”
As budgets for PreK get mixed in with K-12, we may see steadier footing for those who are advocating for more alignment between the grades when it comes to standards, curriculum etc.
Still, there are pitfalls in this new trend. Sara Mead has argued that simply extending down the K-12 system is not necessarily a good thing. Recently, she wrote: “The challenge, then, is to think about how to build new systems for educating our youngest children that combine the best feature of the current early childhood system–including parent choice and diverse provision–with the best of the K-12 space–including universal access and reasonable funding levels–all while avoiding replicating the most dysfunctional features of the K-12 system in the [Early Childhood Education] space.”
Then there are the critics who think that turning PreK into a universal mandate is a terrible idea all around.