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Superintendent: Why prioritize Pre-K?

GIRARD -- For years, lawmakers and state leaders have kept early childhood education funding level, while cutting funding for other programs. 
GIRARD -- For years, lawmakers and state leaders have kept early childhood education funding level, while cutting funding for other programs. But, one local superintendent says that may not be the best method.

Merica Cullen is Superintendent of the North Mac School District, which is the result of a consolidation of Girard and Virden schools in 2010. Cullen says she's flustered every year that state leaders don't touch early childhood education and make cuts to K-12 general state aid.

"I put them in this premiere Cadillac program for a year," Cullen said. "And then we put them in the bare bones programs that we're left with, K through 12."

Over the years, Cullen has seen an overall cut of about 20% to general state aid. But she says schools still have to provide the same programs to the same number of students. Meantime, early childhood funding has remained level or increased.

State leaders say research shows early childhood education pays dividends. And it's something Cullen doesn't disagree with. But she says she almost feels like she's cheating students with a fully-funded preschool and then a cut-back program K-12. She hopes lawmakers will consider including some of the money set aside for Pre-K in their general state aid calculations.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed cutting $400 million from education in next year's budget. About $320 million comes from K-12.  

Quinn claims the cuts are necessary unless lawmakers do something about the state's ongoing pension crisis.
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