States spent $8.7 billion on preschool last school year — a 3.5% increase over the previous year — but publicly funded early-childhood education programs are at risk of experiencing “long-term damage” due to the pandemic’s effect on the economy, according to leaders of the National Institute for Early Education Research.
“The current and looming economic crisis poses a considerable threat to state-funded pre-K,” W. Steven Barnett, NIEER’s senior co-director and founder, said Monday during a press call. “It needs to grow and improve, not just hold on.”
With the release of the Rutgers University-based center’s annual State of Preschool Yearbook, Barnett provided a reminder of how the Great Recession left a “deep and long-lasting” impact on state pre-K programs. After sharp declines in per-child spending, it took states until 2015 to begin increasing funding, and some still spend less than they did before the last recession or haven’t reversed increases to class sizes, for example.