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We need a deeper dive into pre-K

May 13, 2016
AccessEconomics and FinanceOutcomesQuality and Curriculum
Sara Mead

An important report on state-funded pre-K nationally showcases the need for more data on locally driven pre-K programs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least that’s my takeaway from the National Institute for Early Education Research’s annual Pre-K Yearbook, released today. For over a decade, NIEER’s Yearbook has offered the most comprehensive national picture of state-funded pre-K policies, funding and access nationally. If you want to know how many states fund education for 3- and 4-year-olds, how many kids they serve, how much they spend or what kinds of entities can offer pre-K – this is the place to look.

This year’s edition, which covers data from the 2014-15 school year, finds little change in national pre-K access from the previous year. A few states – most significantly New York – expanded access to pre-K in 2014-15, but cuts in other states largely counterbalanced this growth. This is becoming a pattern. After growing rapidly in the 2000s, state pre-K programs consistently served about 29 percent of 4-year-olds nationally from 2010-2015. The apparent stability in pre-K access reflects underlying instability at the state level, however. Each year some states cut funds and enrollment while others increase them, and year-to-year pre-K funding often fluctuates significantly within individual states.