State of Preschool
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The State of Preschool 2022 annual report covers the 2021-2022 school year and is NIEER’s 20th report tracking preschool enrollment, funding, and policies state-by-state. This report focuses on the recovery since the 2020-2021 school year, where we are compared to before the pandemic, where we’ve come over the last two decades, and what needs to come next.
Across the 44 states, DC, and Guam that funded a preschool program in 2021-2022, 32% of 4-year-olds and 6% of 3-year-olds were enrolled, an increase if 13% from the prior year, but still 8% below the pre-pandemic high. This pattern was seen in nearly every state. States spent $9.51 billion on preschool and also used $393 million in COVID-19 relief funding, without which inflation-adjusted spending would have declined.
A big concern is the preschool workforce where we found unprecedented teacher shortages as well as waivers to education and specialized training requirements resulting in fewer qualified teachers in preschool classrooms. Yet few states provided incentives for teacher retention or recruitment.
Over the last 20 years, preschool enrollment has more than doubled and so has inflation-adjusted spending. Spending per child in 2021-2022 was $6,571, essentially the same as it was 20 years ago after adjusting for inflation. Most children continue to lack access to high quality preschool. Though seven states currently working towards universal preschool offer a glimmer of hope – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and New Mexico. Success in these states could dramatically alter the early childhood education (ECE) landscape nationally.
In the report, NIEER calls on states to take stock of their state’s ECE system and calls on the federal government to provide more support to states.
The opinions expressed in this report are solely those of the authors. We wish to thank the Heising-Simons Foundation for supporting data collection and the development, production, and dissemination of this publication. Established in 2007 by husband and wife Mark Heising and Elizabeth (Liz) Simons, The Heising-Simons Foundation is dedicated to advancing sustainable solutions in the environment, supporting groundbreaking research in science, and enhancing the education of the nation’s youngest learners. In addition, we wish to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their support of the State of Preschool report. Finally, the authors would like to extend our thanks to Sandy Ogilvie for her assistance on this report. This publication is a product of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), a unit of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. NIEER supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research.