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Public Pre-K Enrollment, Spending Still Growing Very Slowly, Report Says

May 12, 2016
AccessAssessmentEconomics and FinanceOutcomesState & LocalState Pre-K EvaluationsUniversal and Targeted
Lillian Mongeau
Education Week

Total spending on public preschool has surpassed pre-recession levels for the first time since the 2008 downturn, adjusting for inflation, according to the latest data release from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), a think tank in New Jersey focused on early education. 

The 42 states with public preschool programs and the District of Columbia spent $6.2 billion to serve 1.4 million 3- and 4-year-olds in the 2014-15 school year. Total enrollment increased by a single percentage point, from 28 percent to 29 percent of 4-year-olds and from 4 percent to 5 percent of 3-year-olds, since 2010.

“This year’s rate of progress is not enough to bring high quality pre-K to every child any time soon,” the report concludes.

Some states are making big strides, though. New York City’s new universal preschool programfor 4-year-olds had a notable impact on this year’s findings. The city alone enrolled more than 12,000 additional children in preschool in 2014-15. Including enrollment increases outside the state capital, New York state accounted for two-thirds of the national spending increase and enrolled 5 percent more children in 2014-15 than in 2013-14.

The District of Columbia, Florida,Oklahoma, Vermont, and West Virginia lead the country in preschool access for 4-year-olds. Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming continue to not have a state preschool program, though several of these states do have local, district-based programs.