Vt. only state to boost pre-K spending
By Josh O’Gorman
STAFF WRITER | May 02,2013
Vermont defied the national trend in declining state funding for pre-kindergarten education, but still failed to meet more than half the benchmarks for quality standards, according to a new study.
Of the 40 states that fund pre-K education, Vermont was the only state to increase spending during the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to an annual study conducted by Rutgers University for the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Across the United States, state funding for pre-K dropped by more than half a billion dollars that year, the largest single-year drop since Rutgers began tracking pre-K state spending in 2002.
While 27 of the 40 states reported declines in pre-K spending, Vermont increased its spending by $368 per pupil, from $3,376 per pupil to $3,744 per pupil. During the 2011-12 fiscal year, Vermont had 5,442 pupils enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs at a cost of $20,374,443.
Overall, Vermont ranks 20th out of 40 states in total state spending on pre-K education. New Jersey ranked first in state spending, while Nebraska was last, according to the study.
The 10 states that do not support pre-K education are Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
However, spending does not equal success, according to the study, which sets 10 benchmarks of program quality. Vermont meets only four of those benchmarks, which puts the state near the bottom of rankings of program quality, according to the study.
“We recognize we still have a long ways to go,” said Armando Vilaseca, secretary of the state Agency of Education, who acknowledged the benchmarks were a good measure of program quality. “What we’re looking at now is, how do we get to 10 out of 10?”
According to the study, Vermont’s state-funded pre-K programs met the benchmark standards for offering comprehensive learning standards, teacher in-service training, class size and staff-to-pupil ratio. At the same time, the programs fail to meet the following benchmarks:
Teachers should have a bachelor’s degree.
Teachers should have specialized training in pre-K education.
Assistant teachers should have an associate’s degree in child development.
The program should offer vision, hearing and health screening.
The program should offer at least one meal a day.
There should be site visits to monitor program quality.
Of the 40 states that fund pre-K education, 36 ranked higher than Vermont in terms of meeting the benchmarks. California scored the same as Vermont, while Ohio met three benchmarks and Texas met two.
“We’re moving toward these standards,” said Karin Edwards, director of integrated support for learning, pre-K through middle school division, with the Agency of Education. ‘We’re working with the Department of Health and moving toward universal screening for hearing and vision.”