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States agree on need for ‘preschool,’ differ on definition


September 8, 2015
Economics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityOutcomesState & Local
Sophie Quinton
Route Fifty

Policymakers in Minnesota, like many across the country, have been impressed by studies that show early education can improve a child’s life and save taxpayers money over the long term. But while there’s a growing consensus on the value of preschool, states disagree on where the programs should be based, who should run them, or how the government should support them. . . 

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University surveys state administrators every year to find out whether states have a preschool program and how much they spend per child. Over 65 percent of 4-year-olds in Florida, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Vermont participated in a state-supported program last year. NIEER calculates that between state programs and Head Start, a federal program for poor families, 41.5 percent of 4-year-olds nationwide attend publicly funded preschool.