California one of nine states cutting pre-kindergarten programs
April 8, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) ” The recession could spell trouble for the nation’s youngest schoolchildren, despite positive trends in spending and enrollment for state pre-K programs, according to a report released Wednesday.
At least nine states are likely to make cuts to pre-kindergarten programs including some of the biggest ” California, Florida and New York, said Steve Barnett, one of the authors of the annual report on state-funded preschool.
Barnett, director at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said enrollment cuts, fewer dollars per pupil, and delaying expansion plans are some of the steps that states are considering.
The institute is urging the federal government to match state spending with up to $2,500 for every additional child enrolled in state pre-K programs as a way to grow preschool so that all of the nation’s 4-year-olds can have access by 2020.
Barnett said a good preschool program helps children acquire rich vocabularies and learn about numbers and shapes.
“They also learn how to take responsibility for their actions and to get along with other children,” he said. “These things are the foundation for success in school and in life.”
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Currently, more than 80 percent of all 4-year-olds attend some kind of preschool program, according to the report. About half of those go to a public program, either state pre-K, Head Start or special education. The other half attend private programs.
Thirty-three of the 38 states with state pre-K programs increased enrollment for the 2007-2008 school year, the report said.
Oklahoma has nearly 90 percent of its 4-year-olds in a public education program, the best enrollment ranking in the study.
At least seven other states ” Florida, Georgia, Vermont, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and New York ” have more than half of 4-year-olds attending some type of a public preschool program.
Spending on state pre-K programs increased from $4.2 billion to $5.2 billion last year, said Barnett.
The researchers also ranked the quality of the programs, looking at 10 benchmarks such as class size, teacher-to-child ratios and whether the teacher has a bachelor’s degree.
North Carolina and Alabama were the only two states that met all 10 benchmarks. Louisiana, Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington met nine of the 10 standards, said the report.