We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
Given Massachusetts’ long history as a leader and innovator of education, you’d think that we’d be currently leading on early education. But Massachusetts lags behind other states in early education. As Massachusetts Fair Share calls for more investment in our youngest learners, let’s take a look at how our state stacks up to programs across the country.
Ranking 28th both amid states and as a nation
The annual report released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) found that Massachusetts ranks 28th in America in prekindergarten access for 4-year-olds, 18th in access for 3-year-olds, and 25th in early education resources based on state spending. That’s pretty middle-of-the-road for a state that had the first public school in America.
In Massachusetts, the percentage of children enrolled in state pre-K in 2013-2014 was a mere 14.1% for 4-year-olds and a slim 3.6% for 3-year-olds. And while our early education provision is mediocre in comparison to other states, in comparison to other developed economies, our provision is embarrassing. The United States ranks 28 out of 34 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) member states in 4-year-olds’ access to early education programs.
The research says that investing in early education isn’t just the right thing to do to help kids have a strong start in life: It’s a smart financial investment, too. We can expect to save $7 for every $1 we spend on these programs. As the sixth richest per capita state in America, not only could we afford to invest more in our children; we have every reason to be an early education leader in America. We can do better, and we should do better.
As a country, progress on early education access has been very slow. National average state spending has increased since 2012, but that pace has been incremental. Within the NIEER report, it was found that at the 2013-2014 growth rate, it would take roughly 75 years for states to reach 50 percent enrollment of all age 4 children under 200 percent of the poverty level.
Investment on the decline
As for Massachusetts, education investment is actually on the decline. Below is a graph of Massachusetts’ state spending per child enrolled in public pre-K since 2002. We’re spending almost half as much as we did twelve years ago! This trend isn’t just true of programs for 4 year-olds. Early education and care as a whole is affected, leading to serious problems of stability and quality for the programs we do have.
According to Marie St. Fleur of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for children, “over the past 15 years, early education and out-of-school-time programs have lost more than $114 million in state funding, adjusting for inflation, while K-12 funding has increased by over $400 million.”
Higher investment is imperative to improve on early education quality and access. The numbers don’t lie – when we spend less, fewer children are able to go to early education programs, and those programs struggle to maintain the same standards.
The 2013-2014 school year saw 8% less 3-year-olds than in 2001-2002. In the last year alone, Massachusetts has decreased total state spending on early education by $5,401,395 – that’s $310 less per child. The problem couldn’t be simpler: When we cut back on funding our kid’s education, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We need a real push to reverse the trend of decreased early education investment. We can’t afford to neglect this responsibility to our children.
It’s time to Put MA Kids First
This issue challenges the core of Massachusetts’ ideals. As the state with the first tax-supported public school in America, we should be alarmed and ashamed that Massachusetts has fallen to such run-of-the-mill standards in early education. Universal early education is a commitment to giving children equal opportunity and an investment in the future of Massachusetts. Increased investment is absolutely necessary to improve upon quality and access to education so that our children can have a bright and hopeful future.
Together we can take action and support increased investment in early education. We’ll help to give every child the same strong start they need to succeed. It’s the right decision for our economy, and the right decision for our children.
Post by Daniel Gutowski