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Recent early education news and updates

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Close the Preschool Gap

September 8, 2017
Sara Mead
US News & World Report

Since the mid-1990s, states have expanded access to publicly funded pre-K programs, but many of these efforts focus on 4-year-olds. Of the 43 states nationally with state-funded pre-K programs, 15 serve exclusively 4-year-olds; the 28 that do include 3-year-olds often serve only a tiny percentage of them. As a result, while nearly one in three 4-year-olds nationally attends a state-funded preschool program, only 5 percent of 3-year-olds (just 1 in 20) do so.

Of late, state and federal policymakers, swayed in part by evidence of the importance of early brain development, have focused increased attention on infants and toddlers, expanding Early Head Start, home visiting, and similar state and local initiatives that support early learning for infants and toddlers (thought the reach of these programs still falls far short of need). But most of these programs stop when children turn three, creating a gap for 3-year-olds who are too old to be eligible for them but not old enough to access publicly funded pre-k programs.