Nightly News | April 26, 2011
>>> we're back now with what a lot of people see as a big problem in this country. when money gets tight, education gets cut and kids pay for it. today the secretary of education warned that cutting spending on early childhood education isn't smart. but a new report from rutgers in new jersey says a lot of states are choosing to do just that. and spending on prek is getting cut. nbc's tom costello has our "education nation" report tonight.
>> [ speaking spanish ].
>> reporter: in washington, d.c. oyster adams is the immersion school that hundreds of parents, rich and poor, want for their kids. starting in preschool, half the day is spent in spanish, half in english. the principal has said she's seen firsthand the difference pre-k can make, especially for underprivileged kids.
>> you absolutely need a rigorous school experience before kindergarten to be on the same playing field as your peers.
>> reporter: but research out today suggests that state funding for preschool education is on the decline. nationwide, state per student spending for preschoolers averaged $4,028 in 2010 . $114 less than 2009 . $700 less than in 2001 . today the education secretary argued we're shortchanging our kids.
>> i simply think we can't win the future by cheating children at the starting line .
>> reporter: without preschool researchers say the most at-risk kids enter kindergarten already 12 months behind. the social and academic delays can snowball.
>> if you get to third grade and you're a year behind, if you get to sixth grade and you're a year or two years behind, you're going to be a dropout.
>> reporter: but there are budget realities. last year states cut their pre-k funding by $30 million. of the 40 states that fund preschool education , 19 cut spending in 2010 . 9 states cut by more than 10%. they're not easy choices. nearly every state is facing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in budget shortfalls. now even congress is considering cuts to early education programs. pre-k advocates insist it's an investment in the next generation. pay now, they say, or pay the consequences later. tom costello, nbc news, washington.