“Quality must be the policy.”  That is one of the five tenets of Voices’ policy framework for very young children.  If we are going to invest in young children to achieve positive outcomes down the road, we must be committed to quality.  Indeed, the research shows that quality child care for disadvantaged children is what yields both personal achievements and government savings in the long term.  Poor child care can in fact be harmful.

In the 2011 budget submitted to the General Assembly last week, the Governor increased the number of PreK students to be served but did not increase the lottery funds to pay for it.  The per student allocation declined by $130 to $4169/year.  That amount is down from $4,410 in 2007.  To help fund the new 2000 slots, a vital support service for disadvantaged kids was eliminated – resource coordinators.  Resource coordinators, paid for by special grants given under defined guidelines, help low income families find the services they need for themselves and their children, including health, parent education, and referrals for job skills training and openings.  By supporting the family, the resource coordinators increase the likelihood of family stability and commitment to education when formal schooling begins.  Think of them as the equivalent of the graduation coaches funded in our middle and high schools to help children at risk to stay in school.

 This is lottery money, not general fund revenues.  Constitutionally, lottery funds can be spent only for PreK and scholarships.  Lottery income has remained strong and we have over $600 million in unrestricted reserves.  We can fund the resource coordinators and the additional students as well as help providers pay the full costs of the classroom.  There is no reason to shortchange this program.  Let’s keep quality in Georgia PreK!

Pat

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