After a promising start in providing pre-K education, Arkansas has been falling behind in reaching the kids who need it most, according to a report highlighted by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
The finding is part of a report by Education Week. It gives Arkansas a C- grade and a ranking of 36th in the country based on performance in three rankings — school finance, K-12 achievement and a chance for success category.
Pre-K program hasn’t had a budget increase in Arkansas since 2008 and has lost enrollment since.
The outcome of the governor’s race indicates slim chances of improvement. Democrat Mike Ross, who lost, promised universal pre-K. The winner, Asa Hutchinson, was reluctant to commit to additional support for pre-K, at one point describing it as something of a welfare program. He meant that negatively, of course, though it’s true that it is of greatest benefit to people who can’t afford to provide pre-K with their own resources.
Said a release from Arkansas Advocates:
Jerri Derlikowski, education policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF), says she’s worried about the lack of funding for pre-K in Arkansas. She says without a cost-of-living adjustment for pre-K funding, at a minimum, the quality of our pre-K programs will continue to drop. Some programs may also be forced to close as they reach the breaking point on finding ways to cover increased costs with no increases in revenue.
“We won’t be able to sustain our current program without adequate funding,” Derlikowski says. “We’re glad the report recognizes areas in which Arkansas really excels at pre-K, but the lack of funding is real, and it will hurt us in the future. The lack of investment doesn’t just hurt our ranking in a study, it has a very real impact on the education of our children and their ability to compete in the global economy.”
Derlikowski says she particularly troubled by the state’s ranking in the gap in attendance between poor children and their more affluent counterparts. Sixty-four percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in households earning $100,000 or more attend pre-K. Only 40 percent of kids who live in households that make less than $20,000 per year do so. Pre-K helps low-income students gain academic ground, but if there’s no room for those students in the state’s pre-K program, it can hurt their chances at a successful academic career.