From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
In 1991 we created the ABC program to get three and four-year-olds ready for kindergarten, in large part due to the work of the late Senator Clarence Bell of Parkin. He worked tirelessly to fund pre-kindergarten programs throughout Arkansas, and the ABC program is a lasting tribute to his belief in the importance of education.
Thanks to investments in ABC, we’ve been at the top of the rankings in accessibility to pre-kindergarten programs, especially for three-year-olds. In Arkansas, 19 percent of three-year-olds attend a pre-K program funded by the state.
That’s almost four times better than the national average of 5.5 percent, according to a recent national study commissioned by Rutgers University.
It’s a proven fact that kids who go through pre-K programs are better prepared for first grade, which means they will do better academically when they get into the upper grades.
School officials recently announced encouraging scores on standardized tests, taken by this year’s high school students. We laid the foundation for many of those improvements years ago, when today’s high school graduates were in pre-K programs like Head Start and Arkansas Better Chance.
But in the past couple of years, we’ve been standing still. Last year, state funding went down slightly, when you adjust for inflation. The percentage of four-year-olds in pre-K has dropped from 38 percent in 2014, to 32 percent last year.
We need to reverse this recent trend, and we have the resources to do it. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, state budget officials announced that Arkansas ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $295 million.
Getting more kids into pre-kindergarten programs is the textbook definition of an investment in our future.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.