Arizona has “shut the door” on preschool programs by making funding cuts that leave a bleak educational future for the state’s children, according to a report released.
The report by the National Institute for Early Education Research said Arizona in 2010 eliminated the Early Childhood Block Grants that were used to provide accredited preschool education programs for children of low–income families. “The State of Preschool Yearbook 2011also said that Arizona no longer has a program specifically funding early childhood education that can be measured in the institute’s survey.
“This is particularly disturbing given that Arizona has a large population of Hispanic children who would benefit a great deal from preschool education,” institute Director Steve Barnett said in a statement.
But an Arizona Department of Education spokesman called it “disingenuous” for the institute to claim that the state does not have a program at all, noting that such programs got more than $6.2 million from the state’s First Things First initiative in 2011. First Things First, approved by voters in 2006, distributes funds from Arizona cigarette taxes to various early childhood education programs.
“Whether or not it meets their criteria of what their report is on, we need to go beyond the scope of their report,” said Ryan Ducharme, the state department spokesman. “And it’s fair to say that Arizona is still providing early childhood programs for children in preschool up through third grade.”
While the report mentions First Things First funding, an institute spokeswoman noted that those funds are not dedicated to early childhood education but can also go toward initiatives like dental and health care as well as home care.