University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Last Chance Before Election Day: The Arkansas Governor’s Race & Pre-K

In The View from the OEP on October 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm

As most followers of the OEP would know, most key education policy decisions are made at the state level (in fact, more than 60% of the funding spent on K-12 education comes from the state’s coffers). Thus, the gubernatorial election has important implications for K-12 education policy in our state. The OEP has been closely following and have posted a great deal on this race. With the election date only 6 days away, you have very little time left to study up on the candidates and make your final decision. So, if you’re still doing some last minute studying for this “exam” on November 4, here are a few materials that you might find useful.

In the Spring, we conducted YouTube interviews with all 4 candidates at the time.  You can find our summary of the candidate’s views here, or you can view the videos of the candidate interviews in their entirety here.  Finally, you can see an update of the candidate’s views in a blog post just last month.

One of the key education issues in our gubernatorial race is whether or not to increase funding for pre-kindergarten; and so, this week, we decided to examine the evidence on pre-K. In the policy brief we released today, we examine the history of pre-K in Arkansas, and we provide a summary of pre-K research across the nation.

CaptureCurrently, over 25,000 three- and-four-year old students across the state attend state-funded Arkansas Better Chance pre-K programs. Since 2008, approximately $111 million has been spent each year by the state on pre-K. Depending on the outcome of next week’s elections, we may see changes in pre-K spending in our state.

We believe that in order to decide whether to make a substantial investment in pre-K, it is important to consider the impact that pre-K has on students. In the policy brief, we highlight the research on long-term and short-term impacts of pre-K to conclude:

  • Long-term studies of specialized programs reveal positive impacts on outcomes such as such as educational attainment, earnings, health, and crime rates, but all of these studies were on small, intensive programs
  • Recent studies on state-funded pre-K programs in Oklahoma, New Jersey, and Arkansas found short-term positive effects in math and literacy in kindergarten; however, these effects disappear over time.

As with any policy, the state’s priorities and budget constraints must be taken into account when making funding decisions; however, we believe that the evidence surrounding a policy should also play a role in the decision-making process. Often we see policy-makers and politicians cherry-picking positive or null results to support their position on pre-K, without considering the evidence as a whole. Therefore, we urge you to take a look at the policy brief, and weigh the evidence yourself!

In the meantime, we’ll see you at the polls!

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