Fewer Kentucky children would be eligible for early childhood learning services under the proposed House budget being voted on this week after a subcommittee cut Gov. Steve Beshear’s $15 million allocation in half.
“We have been hearing, as we talk to legislators, that this was going to be very hard in this tight budget time to keep the $15 million in the budget for pre-school,” said Cindy Heine with the Prichard Committee for Educational Excellence.
Any change to Beshear’s proposed $15 million appropriation could cause an imbalance in eligibility requirements.
“It would totally change the way the money would be rolled out,” said Terry Tolan, executive director for the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood.
Tolan said cutting funding in half doesn’t necessarily cut the number of children who would receive services in half, but new eligibility requirements would have to be written. Under Beshear’s proposal, in 2014 families living at 160 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for early childhood education services. By the end of his second term, Beshear proposed to increase to families at or above 200 percent.
Tolan said she’s pleased that any amount was approved by the House committee this week.
“Of course I would have preferred that the 15 million would have stayed intact. But considering how challenging the budget is this year, I am pleased that at least $7.5 million stayed intact,” she said.
The Senate must also approve any allocations for early childhood learning, and Tolan said it may be more of a challenge in that chamber.
“We’re ready to work with the legislature to make sure that the future success of children is assured through the expansion of the preschool program and we’ll continue to do so regardless of what happens in this budget bill,” she said.