Executive Summary: Quality Pre-K Expansion in Arkansas: Lessons Learned

During the special session in 2004, the Arkansas General Assembly passed landmark legislation, greatly expanding access to ABC programs. Act 49 created the Arkansas Better Chance for School Success programs, a state-funded quality preschool program for at-risk 3 and 4 year old children estimated to cost $100 million per year when fully implemented. During the special session of 2004 legislators appropriated $40 million in new revenues for the initial expansion of this quality public preschool for children with family incomes under 200 percent of poverty. An additional appropriation of $20 million during the 2005 session brought total new state investment in this program to $60 million per year.

As with any major program expansion, the state faced major challenges. The pre-k expansion provided a rare case study on how to undergo a major expansion of quality pre-k to at-risk children over a very short time frame. This report is an analysis of what happened during the eight months following the enactment of this new program , the initial $40 million appropriation, and the additional $20 million expansion during 2005.