Washington, DC -
03/19/2008 - While the “State of Preschool” Yearbook highlights important progress in the movement for high-quality pre-kindergarten for all, we have a long way to go as a country before we can truly celebrate. Until the parent of every 3- and 4-year-old can access and afford a quality, voluntary pre-k program, we have work to do. The reality is that quality and access are too difficult to come by in this country, and children deserve better.
“Pre-K Now is heartened to see evidence that, in 2007, more than a million children attended state-funded pre-k programs and that leaders in many states are making this happen by investing in early education more than ever before. Twenty-two percent of all 4-year-olds in the nation attended state-funded pre-k (an increase from 20 percent in 2006); access for 3-year-olds increased as well, an encouraging sign of growing recognition that early education benefits our youngest learners, too.
“Yet, we know that access alone does not produce the positive results demonstrated by decades of sound research. Only quality programs yield the kind of outcomes that help children thrive, improve schools and ultimately, strengthen communities in the long run.
"While quality pre-k is not cheap, low-quality pre-k is wholly unacceptable. We’re talking about children who are undergoing one of the most critical phases of brain development of their lives. Even though, for the first time in five years, the state per-child spending increased when adjusting for inflation, the increase was a mere $32, leaving current per-child spending (still) lower than what it was in 2002.
“Unfortunately, three states with some of the lowest quality ratings - Florida, California and Texas - collectively serve 40% of all the 4 year-olds enrolled in state pre-k programs. That means that thousands of children are not receiving the kind of research-based, individualized pre-k that works with parents to prepare children for success in school and in life. These states will not see the return on their investment that taxpayers and policymakers expect.
“In particular, we hope states that provide no funding for pre-k at all, such as Indiana, Mississippi and Wyoming, will change course. Until they do, countless children may enter school behind merely because of the state they call ‘home.’
“The good news is that the movement for high-quality pre-kindergarten continues and that groups like NIEER are doing incredible work to move the ball down the field. We’re also looking to our national policy leaders to have federal policy support the great work states are doing. The bad news is that most 3- and 4- year old children are still not guaranteed an early education, much less a high quality early education.
“Over the long term, many of the traits and skills that make good citizens, good neighbors and good coworkers start in the earliest years. Policymakers concerned about workforce development, economic prosperity and global competitiveness should be troubled by the arbitrary nature of access to and quality of pre-k revealed by this report. Children in the richest country in the world shouldn’t have to depend on luck or a state line to get a quality pre-k experience.”
Pre-K Now collaborates with state advocates and policymakers to lead a movement for high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds. The following funders contribute to making this important work possible: The Pew Charitable Trusts, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the McCormick Tribune Foundation, the Foundation for Child Development, RGK Foundation, CityBridge Foundation, PNC Financial Services Group, and the Schumann Fund for New Jersey.