Democratic Representatives stopped by local schools on Thursday to advocate for more Pre-K funding.
Lawmakers on both sides spoke about what they’d like to see happen to the state’s Pre-K budget.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said Pre-K programs need an additional 20-million dollars added to the budget, to keep up with the cost of living.
As expected, Democrats and Republicans have some differing opinions about the best way to address this challenge.
In April, the legislature shot down a proposal to increase the Pre-K budget by 10 million dollars.
Democratic Representative Greg Leding believes we needed that money.
“To be clear we need more money than that,” Leding said.
Republican Representative Charlie Collins agrees the Pre-K budget could be re-adjusted, but said he hasn’t seen a solid plan yet.
“I’m very open to a plan I just havent seen that, the only things I hear are this is important we need new money we need to throw more money at it,” Collins said.
Laura Kellams with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said Pre-K funding shouldn’t be about political affiliation.
“It shouldnt be a partisan issue and we’re trying to make sure that folks that support both parties understand that this is good for all kids,” Kellams said.
She said Pre-K funding hasn’t received a boost in the last eight years, besides a small 1.5 million dollar increase in 2015 and eventually facilities and education materials will be outdated.
Leding argues a budget increase is manageable this year.
“They are already talking about cutting taxes by 50 million in the next session so clearly people think we have at least that much money to play with and I think you have to have an honest conversation about what our priorities are,” Leding said.
Collins believes it may be more of a challenge.
“The problem with just adding money to everything is that it’s going to continue to force us to have the highest tax rates on workers in our region,” Collins said.
The legislature started budget hearings this week discussing which state programs to prioritize.
Budget decisions will be made during the legislative session beginning in January.