Alabama has a highly-regarded state-funded voluntary pre-kindergarten program, but it’s limited in scope, reaching 6 percent of the state’s eligible four-year-olds.
Legislation: Governor Bentley is asking the Alabama state legislature to increase pre-k funding by roughly 65 percent, with expectation to increase that funding in coming years.
Florida enrolls more students in voluntary state-funded pre-k programs than any other state in the nation, but also ranks lowest of the Southern states in per-student spending. Lawmakers made deep budget cuts last year, cutting $142 per child and increasing class sizes by two students.
Legislation: Florida’s voluntary pre-K program is reviewed annually in the state legislature as part of the funding process.
Georgia offers universal pre-K for all age-eligible children in the state, space permitted. through state lottery funds. There is a waiting list for students. The program faced cuts last year in the state legislature; lawmakers cut 20 days from the year and increased all class sizes by two students, but could have seen deeper cuts if the program was cut from a full to a half day as proposed.
Legislation: A proposed $19.8 billion dollar budget for 2014 includes $12.9 million to restore 10 days to Georgia’s pre-kindergarten calendar.
Funding for Louisiana’s state-sponsored pre-k program, known as LA-4, has more than doubled over the last five years, from $30 million dollars in 2008 to $74.5 million dollars in the current school year. Although the state has a goal to expand to universal pre-K by 2014, less than 18-percent of Louisiana’s 3-and-4-year-olds are currently attending a publicly-funded pre-K program.
Legislation: Policy enacted in last year’s legislative session would require all pre-K programs in Louisiana to show measurable, results-based gains for pre-K students. The state is also working to roll all current funding streams for early education programs like Head Start, LA-4, Title 1, 8(g) and others into a single pot of money. Funding would be distributed to programs based on how well students score on kindergarten readiness tests; programs that miss the mark would be removed from public funding distribution. The plan is targeted for full implementation by the start of the 2015-2016 school year.
Mississippi is the only state in the deep South that does not have a state-funded preschool program. But many of the state’s Title I schools have opted to fund early education for four-year-olds with federal dollars, so approximately 10 percent of Mississippi’s four-year-olds attend preschool in a public school. Mississippi also has the largest percentage of Head Start attendees in the nation.
Legislation: Many Republicans in the legislature are backing a preschool bill that would fund pre-k at a rate similar to other Southern states. Mississippi’s plan would also make it one of two Southern states without universal pre-k that would not give preferential seats to students with demonstrated need.
Tennessee’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program serves only poor and disadvantaged four year olds. In several regions, Tennessee pre-k programs partner with area Head Start programs to provide services to reach more disadvantaged families; Title I funds and foundation grants supplement other pre-K programs on top of basic state funds. Tennessee’s pre-k program was previously funded by lottery dollars but is now part of the state education department budget.
Legislation: Republican Governor Bill Haslam has said that he would consider expanding state-funded pre-k if studies show long-term gains for preschool students. But Tennessee Republican lawmakers, especially Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, have shown long-term opposition to pre-k expansion plans.