by KYW’s Dr. Marciene Mattleman

Last year 38 states had pre-school programs serving more than 1.2 million 3 and 4-year-olds. Now states are slashing nearly $350 million– meaning fewer slots for children, teacher layoffs and fewer services for poor families who can’t afford private pre-schools.

To balance its budget, Arizona may drop its entire 5,500-child program and voters will decide in November whether to eliminate the First Things First pre-K program created in 2006 with tobacco tax money.

The cuts come at a time when research has shown the critical nature of early childhood education as states struggle to close achievement gaps and increase chances of kids staying in school and graduating.

Marci Young, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Pre-K Now program points to studies that show … “states see a $7 return for every $1 invested in early childhood education because children who attend prekindergarten are more likely not to need remedial education, to graduate from high school, to go to college and have higher-paying jobs producing more taxes.”

The Associated Press article stresses the need for a good foundation before kids start school.

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