More Children Falling Through the Cracks
Recently, the U.S. Census released data from 2011 on school enrollment across the country. In Arizona, only 35% of 3 and 4 year old children were enrolled in preschool (chart),which is far below the U.S. average (47%) and one of the lowest in the country. These figures are based on Census surveys and include all types of early education programs.
The evidence is clear that children in quality early learning programs do better in school, are more likely to become proficient readers, and are ultimately more likely to graduate from high school. To maximize their learning, children need safe, reliable places to learn and grow. Unfortunately, many Arizona working parents cannot afford the cost of early education and the state has cut all funding to help parents afford quality programs. These budget cuts left over 4,000 children out of state funded preschool and more than 20,000 children out of child care assistance.
First Things First offers some early care and education scholarships for families; this year, 8,972 children younger than 5 were helped by these scholarships. But First Things First cannot begin to fill the gap for families left by dramatic state budget cuts to preschool and child care.
As CAA prepares for the 2013 Legislative session, we look forward to working with our state leaders to rebuild this critical component of a successful education system.