It appears as though whenever it is time to balance state budgets and tighten up on spending, early childhood education is the first thing to go. Whereas New Jersey legislators have been in hot water in recent years due to cuts to early childhood funding – and education funding in general – the youngest residents of other states have been facing similar threats. While people generally agree that the education of young children is a priority, such programs usually cannot withstand the scrutiny of budget tightening because of the long period of time before there are visible returns on the investment in children.
Here is a quick glimpse of how funding for early childhood programs and services is faring in other states:
- In North Carolina, testimony regarding the impact of a 20 percent cut in early childhood spending on the state’s More at Four Program is underway. Similar to the Abbott Preschool, North Carolina’s More at Four program is state funded at targeted towards at-risk four-year-olds. With the cuts, only 20 percent of the state’s at-risk children would be able to receive services.
- Anchor Bay School District in Michigan is taking a different approach to cuts in their education spending. In a plan, pending approval, to ease the effect of the cuts, the school district is considering a proposal that would restructure two elementary schools and create one elementary school while leaving the other one for early childhood programs.
- In Tennessee, the Office of Early Childhood and Youth in Shelby County was barely spared from a $400,000 after the Board of Commissioners re-voted on the funding cuts after some backlash from their local constituents.
- On June 23, the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a budget for public schools that allocated monies for early education programs and early intervention initiatives to the tune of $10 million and $14.8 million, respectively.
- On the federal level, 33 senators supported a June 10 letter to the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Promulgated by Sens. Al Franken (D-MN), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), the letter urged the subcommittee to keep funding within the Child Care and Development Block Grant alive for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.
The point: It is a tough political and economic climate to promote funding for early childhood education. Even in New Jersey where the state is required to add $500 million back into the education budget, which means Abbott preschool programs will have more available funding, this may come with collateral damage. For instance, the governor has proposed approximately $30 million in cuts to subsidized child care programs, which already lacked in widespread availability.
How does this affect Jersey City families? Subsidized child care allows lower-income parents of the youngest children to go to work and school during the day by providing a safe, nurturing and affordable environment for their children. Subsidized child care settings also have the benefit of being more closely regulated by the state and provides a number of long-term benefits to children and their families, including greater income capacity and higher education attainment.
Early childhood education is important to Jersey City’s future development and even when the state fails, it is pertinent that residents encourage the local school board to keep early childhood education and care on the forefront of the agenda. An investment in children is a direct investment in the future, so take a stand against budget cuts by writing your state congressperson today.