State pre-K program receives praise, mixed reviews on funding

(KATV) - Two new studies on a state funded pre-K program show Arkansas is beginning to shrink the gap between low-income children and other children.

The Rutgers University study found Arkansas Better Chance students had improved scores in vocabulary and math through the second grade and in literacy through the third grade than students who did not attend ABC.

The study by Arkansas Research Council showed similar results including that children who attended ABC were more prepared for kindergarten than those who did not attend ABC.

But the program is not without some dispute. The Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families complains funding to ABC has remained the same since 2008.

"There is absolutely no doubt that investing in pre-K programs will give us huge returns," said Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. "Since 2008, the level of state funding for pre-K has been flat. We would encourage our leaders to think more seriously about investing in early education, especially in light of the findings presented in these two studies."

However, Tonya Russell, Director of the Arkansas Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, points out during a time where every state is looking to trim the budget, Arkansas is one of the few states where funding has not been sacrificed.

"[The study] allows the state to really stand solid on the investment that we've made. The legislature and our governor stands very firm behind [the program] at time where some states have had to make cuts, Arkansas has remained committed to that," said Russell.

An independent study by Rutgers University released two weeks ago shows Arkansas' overall spending on pre-K education has actually increased in recent years. Click here to read more on that.

You can also get a closer look at both studies released Friday. Click here to read the study from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Click here to read the study from the Arkansas Research Center.