Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report Calls State of U.S. Early Education `Subprime’

Despite the years of conversation about expanded preschool being the key to closing achievement gaps, a new report says that federal funding for children ages zero to eight is not increasing. In fact, it is trending slightly downward.

Early education is a critical issue for Latinos. They are less likely to attend preschool than black or Hispanic children.

The New America Foundation report, “Subprime Learning: Early Education in America since the Great Recession,” charts the current condition of education for children ages zero to eight.

With an influx of federal stimulus funding, in 2009 early education funding for children at birth through third grade received a large boost to $32.6 billion, according to the foundation. In 2011, funding stood at $22.6 billion. And in 2013, funding was $21.5 billion.

This trend is occurring even though President Obama called yet again for high quality preschool for all children in the State of the Union address this week, calling it one of the best investments that can be made in a child’s life.

However, the report calls funding for home visiting programs provided to at-risk mothers of children ages zero to three “one of the brightest spots of progress” in early education within the past five years. The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MECHV) was created in 2010 with $1.5 billion in funding for five years. According to the report, 15,000 families were helped by the program in 2013.

Home visiting programs also are of critical importance to Hispanics, since they often assist immigrant mothers with preparing their child for entrance into the U.S. education system.

The foundation finds that state funding for early education is a mixed bag. Pre-K for every child is a notion that nearly everyone supports. But things become more complicated when the price-tag is high.

A good illustration of the intense funding battles being waged across the country is the ongoing tussle in New York State.

The New York Times reports that while State Education Commissioner John King said a universal free full-day program for 4-year-olds would cost a hefty $1.6 billion annually, Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the price-tag at $300 million a year.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to tax the rich to fund universal pre-K. According to The Times, New York City schools already educate 58,000 mostly Hispanic and black 4-year-olds. Most attend programs that last about two and a half hours a day. The mayor wants more full-day programs for four-year-olds and more children in programs.