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Children whose parents speak a language other than English less likely to enroll in preschool

October 19, 2017
Ashley Hopkinson

Young children with at least one parent who speaks a language other than English at home are less likely to be enrolled in quality early childhood programs, although it is most critical for those students, according to a national report that includes a 30-state analysis on how different policies affect dual language learners.

Titled “Dual Language Learners: A Demographic and Policy Profile for California,” the report is based on an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data from 2011 to 2015. It also uses preschool data from the National Institute for Early Education Research, which reports on state funded pre-kindergarten programs.

While dual language learners make up 60 percent of California children ages 8 and younger, according to the report’s estimates, only 43 percent of those children were enrolled in pre-K programs. Among children whose families only speak English at home, 52 percent had been enrolled in pre-K programs. One reason for this is that more dual language learners are from low-income families, according to the report. The report states that 57 percent of dual language learners in California are from low-income families compared with 35 percent of children who are not dual language learners. The report defines low-income as families as those earning below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

This discrepancy in pre-K enrollment is evident nationwide, said Maki Park, co-author of the report and a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute. Dual language learners make up nearly one-third of all young children (ages 0-8) in the country, with 41 percent enrolled in pre-K compared to 48 percent of children who are not dual language learners. Nationally, more than half of dual language learners, 58 percent, are in low-income families compared to 43 percent of children whose families speak only English.