In just one year, Arizona added approximately 1,800 new public preschool slots for 3-year-olds and currently serves 3,526 children under the age of three through Early Head Start in the state. However, work still needs to be done with only 3 percent of 4-year-olds and 2 percent of 3-year-olds in the state having access to state pre-K programs. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $8,671. Aware of this need, advocates, local leaders, and state leaders in Arizona have kept up momentum for early childhood education by putting pressure on lawmakers to restore funding cuts, improve the quality of existing programs and expand access to more children.
- Statewide support for early education: Arizona Town Hall, a nonprofit organization which identifies and facilitates discourse on critical issues facing the state, has been a vocal advocate for Arizona’s youngest children. During its 103rd Town Hall event in November 2013, the organization hosted a panel on early education in Arizona with hundreds of participants from across the state. Business leaders, educators, nonprofit leaders and economists all came together to develop recommendations and an action plan for improving early education based on research, proven impact and expert testimony. The final report was presented to public officials, community leaders and many others. This year, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona has worked with Arizona Town Hall and the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce to encourage the state legislature to restore funding for subsidized child care. The organization asserts that policies supportive of child care and early childhood education are the most effective method for helping low-income families achieve economic self-sufficiency.
- What state leaders are saying: Fred DuVal, an Arizona gubernatorial candidate and former chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, has stated that his campaign will focus on making “targeted reinvestments in K-12 education that prioritize early childhood education and all-day kindergarten.” He has been vocal about wanting to hold the state legislature accountable for funding cuts made in public education and wanting to focus more on protecting vulnerable children.