Menu Close

Preschool Matters Today

These Hours Were Made For Learning: State Pre-K Operating Schedules


September 21, 2012
Access

© NIEER

Last week we wrote about changes in schedules for kindergarten classes, noting that some states and school districts are scaling back from full-day to half-day programs to stretch tight budgets further. This week we’re taking a look at pre-K programs and their operating schedules, using longitudinal data from our State Preschool Yearbook report series.

Like their counterparts in kindergarten, preschoolers may be in full- or half-day programs, depending on the state or school district in which they live. Indeed, most state-funded preschool programs (55 percent in the 2010-2011 school year, as seen in Figure 1) do not have a state policy on the length of the program day, leaving this decision up to local school districts. Of the remaining state programs, 24 percent have a state policy dictating a part-day program while another 22 percent require full-day programs.

Figure 1. Operating schedule policy by program

Program Year

Part-day

Full-day*

Determined Locally

2010-2011

24%

22%

55%

2009-2010

23%

21%

56%

2008-2009

20%

20%

61%

* Programs that report “school day” are included in “full-day” in these figures, resulting in some rounding errors.

Since the 2008-2009 school year, the percent of state programs requiring full-day pre-K programs has increased steadily. Still, an increase in the percentage of states with full-day pre-K policies isn’t the full story. As we’ve noted before, state pre-K programs are far from uniform, with some enrolling only 1 percent of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds and others enrolling upwards of 70 percent of the preschool-age population. As a result, when we look at the percent of children enrolled in state-funded pre-K, as we do in Figure 2, we see a very different story.

Figure 2. Operating schedule by student*

Program Year

Part-day

Full-day**

Determined Locally

2010-2011

52%

41%

6%

2009-2010

50%

42%

8%

2008-2009

50%

43%

7%

* Out of those children whose schedules can be reported.  In the 2010-2011, 75% of state-funded pre-K students can be reported by schedule (995,707 of the 1,323,128 served); in the 2009-2010 year, 62% (or 797,235 out 1,292,310). In 2008-2009, this was 63% (763,560 out of 1,216,077). Notably, California was unable to report its large enrollment by schedule during the 2008-2009 year.** Programs that report “school day” are included in “full-day” in these figures, resulting in some rounding errors.

More than half of the children enrolled in state-funded pre-K during the 2010-2011 school year can be found in part-day classrooms, up two points from the both of the previous program years. While this may sound like a small difference, in reality it means a difference of tens of thousands of children.

And, looking at media reports for the current school year, we fear that some states and school districts may be tilting the scale further toward increased numbers of children enrolled in part-day, rather than full-day, programs. For instance, Texas school districts in the past funded full-day pre-K classes by supplementing the state-funded part-day program, but the grants many districts used to do so were removed from the state’s 2012-2013 budget. Some districts are working to maintain full-day programs but will require parents to pay tuition as a result.

We are still collecting data on the 2011-2012 school year for The State of Preschool 2012, and we’ve worked to modify our questions regarding operating schedules to get even more precise data. Stay tuned for more when that report is published this spring. In addition, look out for the findings to be released from our colleagues on a study of half-day vs. full-day programs in Chicago preschools.

– Jen Fitzgerald, Public Information Officer, NIEER

– Megan Carolan, Policy Research Coordinator, NIEER