A new federal grant will provide $15 million each of the next four years to expand the Arkansas Better Chance program, aimed at providing quality pre-K schooling for children. The money will allow an expansion of the program to
1,200 2,241 more kids, but the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Invest Early Coalition said in a statement it’s “not near enough to fix our early education financial crisis.” (Note: The Advocates revised the number of new children served after getting additional information.)
The statement notes that ABC funding, which serves 24,000, hasn’t increased since 2008. An increase in funding from the 2015 legislature “remains critical for the health of our “early education system and our future economy,” the statement said. Money is short, however, and Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson hasn’t been encouraging in comments about spending more on the program. Rather, he’s focused more on cutting taxes.
Rich Huddleston, executive director of the Advocates, said in the statement that $16 million is needed to make up the difference from a lack of cost-of-living increases for the program since 2008. Without it, it will be hard to keep teachers and for some centers to continue to operate.