The following is a statement from Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families:
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) and the Invest Early Coalition would like to thank Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas General Assembly for their bipartisan support of the Arkansas Better Chance program (ABC). ABC provides high-quality pre-K to our state’s at-risk 3- and 4-year-old children. As part of the state general improvement fund legislation passed this session, ABC will receive $3 million in much-needed new funding.
The $3 million falls far short of the $16 million increase in annual state funding that ABC needs to make the program whole again after going without a dime of new money for eight years. This increase, however, is an important first step by Arkansas policymakers in recognizing that new investments in high-quality pre-K are needed. We must provide our youngest learners with the building blocks they need for future success. But the job is far from over. We need more funding to maintain the high quality of our ABC programs. Without it, some will have to reduce the number of children they serve or even close their doors.
We look forward to working with Gov. Hutchinson and the Arkansas General Assembly in the future, including the 2016 fiscal session, to build on this investment in high-quality pre-K. Arkansas must do more if we are seriously committed to providing a high-quality education for all children, building a workforce that will help Arkansas succeed in the global economy, and improving the economic well-being of all Arkansas families.