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Arizona preschools fall toward bottom of the pack in national report

April 17, 2019
Griselda Zetino

PHOENIX — A new report grading preschool programs nationwide doesn’t show good results for Arizona.

“Arizona is really toward the bottom of the pack,” Steve Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said.

The institute’s report released Wednesday found only 4% of 4-year-olds and 2% of 3-year-olds in Arizona were enrolled in state-funded preschool last year.

That’s well below the national averages — nationwide, 33% of 4-year-olds and 5.7% of 3-year-olds were enrolled in public preschool programs last year.

Arizona’s preschool programs also only met three of the report’s 10 quality standards. Barnett said large class sizes and low teacher qualifications are to blame.

“The good news in our report is that Arizona did make some progress in terms of increasing spending on the programs to raise quality,” Barnett said.

According to the report, Arizona spent more than $21 million on its preschool programs last year, an increase of 9% from the previous year.

Barnett said what stood out for him about Arizona’s findings are how enrollment and funding has fluctuated over the last decade.

“If Arizona could get on a schedule to make regular improvements – small steps forward in the right direction – a lot more children would have access and a lot fewer would miss out on the opportunities they need to get a good start,” he said.