What Will Gubernatorial Shifts Mean for Preschool Development Grants?

Last week’s election is sure to have implications for early childhood education. New America’s Abbie Lieberman has a good rundown here.

Given that the outlook for major legislative action on early childhood before 2016 was not exactly stellar before last Tuesday, the federal policy impact may be modest–although the likely budget and appropriations battles will certainly impact federally funded Head Start and childcare subsidy programs.

One interesting question is how shifts in gubernatorial control will impact the new federal Preschool Development Grants program. Of the 35 states that submitted Preschool Development Grant applications in late October, 25 had gubernatorial elections last Tuesday. Although incumbents retained their seats in 16 of those races, 9 of the states that applied for Preschool Development Grants will have new governors come January–who may not support the plans put forward by their predecessors. In four of those states, a newly elected governor will replace a term-limited governor of the same party (Democrats in Hawai’i and Rhode Island, Republicans in Arizona and Texas). In three states (Maryland, Arkansas, and Massachusetts), a newly elected Republican governor is replacing a term-limited Democrat. In Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner defeated Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, and in Pennsylvania Democrat  Tom Wolf beat incumbent Republican Tom Corbett. Given the relatively modest pool of funds and large number of states competing, the odds of winning a grant are not great. But if any of the states with a new governor wins a grant on December 10–particularly Maryland, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Illinois, or Pennsylvania–it’s worth watching to see how these governors-elect respond.

Obviously, the greatest impact is likely to be at the state and local level. While Hawaii defeated a pre-k ballot initiative on Tuesday (thanks, Hawaii State Teachers Union), local ballot initiatives on pre-k passed in both Denver and Seattle. Given that austerity is likely to prevail at the federal level for at least the next two years, and many states continue to face challenging fiscal situations, it won’t be surprising if more local jurisdictions continue to take matters into their own hands when it comes to expanding access to pre-k.