The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released their yearly report on state-funded preschool programs across the U.S, a report that chronicles both how many 4- and 3-year-olds are receiving early education and whether or not these programs are adequately serving them. This year, the NIEER discovered these programs have finally begun to recover from cuts made during the recession. However, they still have a lot more to do if we want to provide all children in the U.S. with a high-quality pre-K education.
As NIEER writes in the report:
State funding for pre-K increased by $116 million in 2013-2014, adjusted for inflation. This is the second year in a row that state pre-K has seen a real funding increase, though programs have yet to fully recover from the impacts of half a billion dollars in cuts in 2011-2012. Enrollment growth also resumed in 2013-2014, albeit modestly. Twenty-nine percent of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program.
Besides these improvements in funding and enrollment, some states also met new benchmarks that indicate educational quality. Six state programs now meet all ten of the benchmarks NIEER recommends (Alabama, Alaska, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Louisiana, and Mississippi), while nine more state programs meet nine out of ten benchmarks. Of course, some state programs meet very few of these quality indicators, such as Texas, which only meets two.
The report also offers recommendations to help these states continue to move forward. To increase enrollment, they recommend immediately and substantially increasing funding rates for these programs. Otherwise, the report warns, it could take 150 years to reach even 70% enrollment. Besides simply increasing enrollment, they also recommend states require much higher standards for teacher preparation. Requiring teachers to have a four year college degree and training in early education would be one important way to increase the quality of these programs. If states take these steps, both the number of children receiving early education and the quality of the education they receive would improve, helping more and more children get greater opportunities and better preparation for school.
You can read the full report here.