Arkansas is leading the way in expanding early childhood education through state investments. From 2012 to 2013, the state created more than 1,000 additional preschool slots for 3-year-olds. Today, 33 percent of 4-year-olds and 14 percent of 3-year-olds are enrolled in a state pre-kindergarten program. The state also has approximately 2,271 children under the age of three enrolled in Early Head Start. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $5,894. But, advocates and state leaders understand that more can be done to give the most disadvantaged children in the state a strong start in life by expanding access to high-quality early learning programs.
- What state leaders are saying: Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Congressman Mike Ross has introduced a plan for expanding and funding early childhood education in the state. His goal is to provide universal, high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds by 2025 in a process that would gradually phase in students over 10 years and cost $37.5 million per year. Ross consistently makes the case for investing in children based on the long-term return on investment the state will gain.
- What advocates are saying: Aware of the impact that pre-K programs have had on Arkansas communities, business leaders and early childhood supporters have pushed for more early childhood funding from the state, citing a desire to increase salaries and create a more productive workforce.