New Report Shows Greater Need for Access to High-Quality Preschool for America’s Children

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New Report Shows Greater Need for Access to High-Quality Preschool for America’s Children

New Report Shows Greater Need for Access to High-Quality Preschool for America’s Children
April 7, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education released a new report today detailing the unmet need across the country for high-quality preschool programs.

According to the report, A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America, of the approximately 4 million 4-year olds in the United States, about 60 percent – or nearly 2.5 million - are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, including state preschool programs, Head Start and programs serving children with disabilities. Even fewer are enrolled in the highest-quality programs.

The report highlights the need for an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that expands access to high-quality early learning opportunities and makes the law preschool through 12th grade, rather than K-12. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed the report today during a visit to Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

“This new report shows that we are a long way from achieving full educational opportunity in this country. Students have made enormous progress in recent years, thanks to the hard work of educators, families and the students themselves, but we have so much farther to go, and making high-quality preschool available to all families who want it must be part of that,” Duncan said. “We’ve made key investments in early learning, but we need to do more. Expanding access to high-quality preschool within the reauthorization of ESEA will narrow achievement gaps, and reflect the real, scientific understanding that learning begins long before a child enters kindergarten.”

Advances in science and research have proven the important impact that preschool programs can have on children’s learning, but unfortunately too many children still do not have access to these programs. Latinos are the United States’ fastest growing and largest minority group, making up a quarter of 3- and 4-year-olds, yet they have the lowest preschool participation rates of any major ethnicity or race – 40 percent as compared to 50 percent for African-American children, and 53 percent for white children. In addition, children from low-income families are less likely to be enrolled in preschool than their peers – 41 percent compared to 61 percent. African-American children and children from low-income families are the most likely to be in low-quality settings and the least likely to be in high-quality settings. All children need access to high-quality preschool to prepare them for kindergarten and to close the opportunity and achievement gaps

For some children when they enter kindergarten, huge educational gaps exist. White students have higher reading and math scores than students of color. Scores on reading and math were lowest for kindergartners in households with incomes below the federal poverty level and highest for those in households with incomes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Children at risk for academic failure, on average, start kindergarten 12 to 14 months behind their peers in pre-literacy and language skills. Without access to quality preschool, students of color, and children from low-income families, are far less likely to be prepared to start kindergarten than their peers.

High-quality preschool provides benefits to society of $8.60 for every $1 spent, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisors December 2014 report, The Economics of Early Childhood Investments, about half of which comes from increased earnings for children when they grow up. An impressive coalition of education, business, law enforcement, retired military, child advocacy groups, and faith-based leaders and 70 percent of voters said in a recent Gallup poll that they would support increasing federal funding to make sure high-quality preschool programs are available for every child in America.

The Obama Administration has made significant investments in early learning through the Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool Development Grants programs. The grants lay the groundwork for states to be prepared for the proposed Preschool for All program. The Administration has asked for an increase of $500 million for Preschool Development Grants in the FY16 budget request to expand this opportunity to more states, the Bureau of Indian Education, tribal educational agencies, territories, and the outlying areas.

Preschool Development Grants support states’ efforts to build or enhance their infrastructure to provide high-quality preschool programs, and expand programs in high-need communities. The $250 million awarded to 18 states will benefit more than 33,000 additional children in 200 high-need communities, where families have little or no access to affordable, high-quality preschool. With additional funding, the Department could have provided high-quality opportunities for many more children in the 36 states that applied.

Access to Preschool Uneven Across States

Table 1. Enrollment in Publicly Funded Preschool1 by State (4-year-olds) 2012–2013[i]


State

Total number of 4-year-olds in the state

Percentage of 4-year olds enrolled in state preschool

Percentage of 4-year olds enrolled in federal Head Start programs

Percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in special education preschool services

Total 4-year-olds not enrolled in a publicly funded program

Total percentage of 4-year-olds not enrolled in a publicly funded program

50 states plus D.C.

4,112,347

28%

10%

3%

2,462,740

59%

Alabama

62,483

6%

15%

2%

48,145

77%

Alaska

10,760

3%

13%

6%

8,420

78%

Arizona

92,778

3%

11%

5%

75,118

81%

Arkansas

40,173

33%

13%

5%

19,862

49%

California

516,595

15%

11%

3%

368,341

71%

Colorado

69,956

21%

7%

6%

46,103

66%

Connecticut

40,958

13%

7%

5%

30,343

74%

Delaware

11,372

7%

6%

6%

9,223

81%

District of Columbia

6,945

94%

6%

0%

0

0%

Florida

221,842

78%

9%

1%

25,266

11%

Georgia

140,894

58%

7%

1%

47,981

34%

Hawaii

17,536

0%

9%

4%

15,176

87%

Idaho

24,427

0%

8%

4%

21,298

87%

Illinois

167,665

27%

11%

3%

98,124

59%

Indiana

87,734

0%

9%

6%

75,006

85%

Iowa

41,034

60%

8%

2%

12,159

30%

Kansas

41,428

21%

8%

8%

26,440

64%

Kentucky

57,379

29%

15%

0%

31,945

56%

Louisiana

64,356

31%

12%

2%

35,050

54%

Maine

14,059

34%

10%

7%

6,775

48%

Maryland

74,758

35%

6%

5%

38,679

52%

Massachusetts

74,901

14%

7%

4%

55,932

75%

Michigan

119,525

21%

15%

0%

77,066

64%

Minnesota

72,464

1%

8%

6%

61,430

85%

Mississippi

43,363

0%

33%

4%

27,339

63%

Missouri

78,544

3%

10%

6%

63,586

81%

Montana

12,568

0%

19%

3%

9,833

78%

Nebraska

26,783

26%

9%

0%

17,527

65%

Nevada

38,407

3%

4%

7%

33,065

86%

New Hampshire

13,853

0%

5%

7%

12,144

88%

New Jersey

109,605

28%

6%

5%

65,952

60%

New Mexico

29,614

18%

14%

7%

18,036

61%

New York

231,040

45%

10%

6%

91,147

39%

North Carolina

128,958

23%

9%

3%

84,809

66%

North Dakota

9,256

0%

17%

5%

7,183

78%

Ohio

144,309

2%

12%

5%

116,712

81%

Oklahoma

54,100

74%

13%

0%

6,955

13%

Oregon

48,463

10%

8%

5%

37,307

77%

Pennsylvania

147,710

12%

10%

6%

105,705

72%

Rhode Island

11,607

1%

10%

7%

9,455

81%

South Carolina

61,682

40%

9%

2%

30,261

49%

South Dakota

12,237

0%

18%

6%

9,295

76%

Tennessee

84,178

21%

11%

2%

55,086

65%

Texas

397,272

52%

9%

1%

152,559

38%

Utah

53,014

0%

7%

6%

46,130

87%

Vermont

6,462

71%

8%

0%

1,320

20%

Virginia

104,722

17%

7%

3%

76,900

73%

Washington

90,419

8%

8%

4%

72,255

80%

West Virginia

21,469

62%

23%

0%

3,165

15%

Wisconsin

72,488

64%

7%

1%

19,968

28%

Wyoming

8,202

0%

11%

13%

6,216

76%

Source: National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). (2013). 2013 State Preschool Yearbook
1 Publicly-funded preschool includes state preschool, Head Start, and special education preschool services and does not include privately funded or locally funded preschool programs.