Volume 5, Issue 5

March 24, 2006

Hot Topics

State-funded pre-K programs boosted total enrollment by an impressive 100,000 children between 2002 and 2005, reports NIEER's just-released 2005 State of Preschool Yearbook. Factor in the 80,000 to 100,000-plus children Florida's VPK program will add to enrollment for the 2005-2006 school year and it's clear that, nationally speaking, state-funded pre-K is growing fast. Look beyond the national numbers, however, and a more complex, occasionally troubling picture emerges. Among the Yearbook’s other findings are these:



  • Enrollment growth outpaced increases in funding, translating to a 7.3 percent decline in inflation-adjusted per-child spending between '02 and '05.

  • Average state spending per child enrolled was $3,551 in ’05. The top-ranked state in funding, New Jersey, ($9,305 per child) spent 10 times more than the lowest ranked state, Maryland ($721 per child.)

  • Despite the overall pattern of growth in enrollment, 11 states saw declines: Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

  • Program quality has been slower to grow than enrollment. 21 state initiatives met 5 or fewer of NIEER's 10 quality benchmarks.

  • Only Arkansas met all 10 of NIEER's benchmarks for state quality standards. Alabama, Illinois, New Jersey's Abbott program, North Carolina and Tennessee met 9 of the 10.

  • State programs in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia made policy changes resulting in real improvements to their quality standards between the '03 and '05 program years.



Institute researchers were surprised by the number of states with preschool budgets and/or enrollment that declined between '02 and '05. "This pattern of advance and retreat in enrollment and funding is unfortunate," said NIEER director Steve Barnett. "It's not something that's acceptable in K-12 education and it threatens the ability of states to build a stable, effective education system for young children." The 2005 State of Preschool Yearbook is available at http://nieer.org/yearbook/.



Calendar

March 31, 2006 - March 31, 2006
Somerset, NJ - This year's Conference on Reading and Writing presented by the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education includes many workshops geared toward the preschool educator.
April 26, 2006 - April 29, 2006
Atlanta, GA – This conference will host more than 40 sessions on child care best practices.

Early Education News Roundup

March 23, 2006
Montgomery Advertiser
In a textbook case of quality over quantity, Alabama has high standards for its state-funded pre-kindergarten programs but has so few programs that less than 2 percent of the state's 4-year-olds can attend them.
March 23, 2006
The Des Moines Register
Iowa is one of 11 states where enrollment in state-funded preschool programs has declined over the past four years, says a national report.
March 21, 2006
The Christian Science Monitor
Last month, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed an initiative that would make the state the first in the US to offer universal preschool to 3-year-olds. Illinois - which already scores a 9 out of 10 on the NIERR's quality ranking - is hoping to reach some of those middle-class children who often don't qualify for targeted programs but whose parents can't afford private preschool.
March 15, 2006
The Boston Globe
It's easy to forget how much preschoolers can do unless you watch them in action.
March 15, 2006
Concord Monitor, Concord, NH
As always, whether talk turns to full-day kindergarten, public preschool or raising the dropout age, the issue becomes money.