The state of preschool

Preschool is important to children’s development – the evidence on that is clear.  But since preschool is not required and often not offered by local school systems, not all families have access to quality preschool programs. 

The National Institute for Early Education Research publishes a report every year that details data on state-funded preschools across the country. This year’s report found that the 2011-2012 school year “was the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K” in America – primarily because state funding for preschools decreased by more than $500 million last year – the largest one-year drop in the past decade.

As a result, enrollment leveled off.  A total of 41 percent of  4-year-olds participated in government-funded preschool, the same percentage as in the 2010-11 school year. And state funding decreased, on average, by $400 per student.

In addition, 42 percent of students nationwide participated in programs that met fewer than half of the quality standards benchmarks.

Lisa McCabe, a research associate in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research is an expert in early childhood education. She says that pre-K programs are essential to give children the skills they need to succeed in elementary school.

“We’ve known for a long time about the multiple benefits associated with participation in high quality prekindergarten programs,” she said. “Yet the NIEER’s report shows how far we still need to go in order to realize these benefits for all children and society at large.”

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