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Report: Wisconsin stands out for preschool access


May 16, 2016
AccessOutcomesQuality and CurriculumState & Local
Kyla Calvert Mason
Wisconsin Public Radio

State's hands-off approach could mean uneven program quality

Wisconsin ranks sixth in the country for access to free preschool programs for 4-year-olds, according to the annual State of Preschool report from the National Institute of Early Education Research. The institute found 64 percent of Wisconsin 4-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded preschool in 2015, down from 66 percent in 2014 but still more than double the national average of 29 percent. An additional 7 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled in Head Start, a free, federally funded preschool program for children from low-income households. . .

Part of the reason for Wisconsin’s high rate of preschool attendance is the state’s 4-year-old kindergarten, or 4K,  program. Free, voluntary schooling for 4-year-olds was written into the state’s constitution in 1848. In 2015 95 percent of the state’s eligible school districts offered 4K. School districts that opt to offer the part-time program receive state funds equal to about half the support they receive for older students. Despite the high participation numbers however, the 4K program hit only five of the institute’s 10 quality benchmarks, like class sizes of 20 students or fewer.