You know the folks over at the Department of Public Instruction are smirking at the timing. Two days after the Senate released its budget that would cut the More at Four program by $40 million and reduce per student spending, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual survey of state-funded preschool programs and ranked More at Four among the best in the nation. The program was one of two in the nation to meet all 10 of the survey’s benchmarks on early learning standards, teacher degrees, teacher specialized training, assistant teacher degrees, continuing professional development requirements, maximum class size, staff-child ratios, screening, referral and support services, meals and monitoring procedures.
The beauty of More at Four lies in rigid requirements for the schools and programs that participate. Too many states place a premium on enrolling large numbers of at-risk children into pre-kindergarten classes with little emphasis on the quality of the schools and daycare centers that enroll them.
In a statement released this afternoon about the report, State Board of Education Chairman and CEO Bill Harrison basically said DPI is proud of the achievement but not in a celebratory mood. Can’t really blame him.