PHOENIX — "I think it's devastating."
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman is opening up about a hurdle that the state, and ultimately parents, will need to clear when it comes to our state's youngest students
"We do not currently have any state funding for pre-school," Hoffman said.
And now, there is no federal funding either.
State officials were informed recently that Arizona would no longer receive a highly competitive grant from the United States Department of Education worth $100 million over five years. That cost could ultimately trickle down to parents.
"When I go out to visit pre-schools, they have often told me they have a wait list of 30 or 50 kids. And I have also heard that some parents are paying more for pre-school than they would for college tuition."
But Hoffman, who is a former pre-school teacher herself, says she's worried the impacts could go beyond the cost.
"I would expect if we don't see that funding come in we would see less classrooms available, less seats available. Not even that it's more expensive but that you're on a wait list or we don't have room for you, or even shutting down programs all together."
Arizona is already hurting when it comes to early childhood education. Hoffman says only 30% of students students who are eligible actually attend pre-school, and Arizona offers no across-the-board full-day kindergarten.
So who pays the biggest price? Hoffman says, ultimately, it's Arizona's students.
"Even social benefits of learning how to interact and play and problem-solve with other kids we know has life-long benefits. There is just infinite research around the benefits of pre-school."
Groups like First Things First and Head Start do help provide pre-school services across the state.
Hoffman hopes Arizona lawmakers are able to come up with a solution to make up for that loss of funding from the federal government.