(NBC) - A newly released education study shows an unprecedented drop in state spending on preschool programs last year.

The report comes just months after President Obama called universal preschool for all children one of his second term priorities.

Educators call quality early learning one of the biggest factors in narrowing the achievement gap,
and yet the latest spending report indicates states decreased preschool funding by over half a billion dollars last year.

The National Institute for Early Education Research calls it the "most significant decline in a decade".

The report found that most states serve less than a quarter of four year olds in state funded preschools.

Ten states don't offer programs at all.

Preschool enrollment gains also stalled and many programs saw a drop in quality.

"That's no way to create a world class education system, no way to put students on a path for college and career readiness," says Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the report highlighted the need for lawmakers to Implement President Obama's suggestions for reform.

He's proposed $75 billion dollars over ten years to provide high-quality preschool to all 4-year-olds.

Education experts blame the lingering effects of the recession on state budgets.

They also warn spending cuts to programs like Head Start, because of the sequester, will only intensify the gap in early learning.