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Gubernatorial Candidate Pushes To Expand Preschool As Nationwide Enrollment Dips

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 1:29 PM

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Barnaby Wasson / Flickr

Cuyahoga County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald says he wants to make universal preschool one of his top campaign priorities.

Pending he defeats Governor John Kasich this fall, FitzGerald says his Pre-K All the Way plan calls for legislation to fund preschool for all Ohio three and four-year-olds beginning in fall 2016 with full implementation by 2018.

All new pre-k teachers would be required to have a bachelor's degree, and class sizes would be capped at 25.

The Plain Dealer reports Ohio currently spends $23.3 million on preschool programs that serve 5,700 kids, and another $600 million to subsidize some child care programs that include pre-school.  FitzGerald's plan would cost $500 million.

His push for expanded and higher quality pre-k comes amid several ongoing efforts in cities around Ohio, and a federal push from President Obama.

But despite growing national attention to the benefits of early childhood education, enrollment in state funded programs is down, according to a report out this week from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. In 2013, public pre-k enrollment dropped by 9,000 kids from 2012.  Even with the enrollment dip, 28 percent of four-year olds in the U.S. are enrolled in state funded pre-k, the same as last year.

As Education Week reports, the dip comes on the heels of a modest boost to per child spending in state funded preschools that's still eclipsed by state budget cuts to pre-k programs from the 2011-2012 school year.

In Ohio, FitzGerald says he plans to work with stakeholders--parents, administrators, lawmakers and others--to ensure enough capacity to house and run the preschool programs.

Efforts already underway in Cincinnati have previously run into space and funding constraints.

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