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And now, combining yesterday’s post about the value of preschool with today’s post about federal aid to strapped state budgets, here’s the latest news on budget cuts aimed at the worst possible place:

States are slashing nearly $350 million from their pre-K programs by next year and more cuts are likely on the horizon once federal stimulus money dries up, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. The reductions mean fewer slots for children, teacher layoffs and even fewer services for needy families who can’t afford high-quality private preschool programs.

….Wealthier parents can afford to send their kids to private preschools, but children from poorer families will likely languish in lower-quality childcare that doesn’t prepare them for kindergarten, experts said.

….Marci Young, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Pre-K Now program, said prekindergarten is the key to helping the Obama administration achieve one of its main goals — improving persistently failing schools. “When you’re thinking about turning around low performing schools or making sure you’re helping close the achievement gap … you’ve got to start in the early years,” said Young.

She pointed to studies that show states see a $7 return for every $1 they invest in early education because children who attend prekindergarten are more likely to not need remedial education, to graduate from high school, to go to college and to have higher-paying jobs that produce more taxes.

Sounds like socialism to me! Here in America we prefer nature red in tooth and claw. For poor people, anyway.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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