In February’s State of the Union address, President Obama outlined a new proposal to expand state pre-K programs to all low- and moderate-income children across the country. The federal funds would require state matching funds, and the state and federal dollars would both be allocated to school districts to expand access to pre-K for eligible children.
In many states, though, it’s impossible even to know the answers to basic questions about pre-K. Because pre-K is often not tracked, or not tracked at the school district level, most principals can’t say how many of their incoming kindergartners attended pre-K, and many policymakers don’t know how many children in their state have access to early education.
New data released in a joint effort by the Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) and the Early Education Initiative, both of the New America Foundation, begin to answer some of these questions. Released for the first time last fall, FEBP and Early Education Initiative staff collect and analyze state- and school district-level pre-K funding and enrollment data where available. The latest update includes information from the 2012 school year, as well as data for earlier years that states had not previously made available. Check out your state or school district in our Funding Per Child widget below:
The data offer an on-the-ground look at national early education funding trends. The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), from which FEBP compiles its state-level pre-K data, found that 2012 was the first year in a decade in which state pre-K funding fell over the prior year. We looked more deeply into those figures and found that the cuts were far from across the board.
In Texas, for example, state pre-K funding fell from $844 million in 2011 to $727 million last year. But while funding decreased substantially in some districts, it actually increased in others. Houston pre-K funding fell from more than $61 million to nearly $53 million over the same one-year span, leading to nearly 400 fewer children in enrolled in pre-K. Meanwhile Denton School District saw increased spending of more than $700,000 and 100 more children enrolled. Even San Antonio, the city whose mayor launched the Pre-K 4 SA initiative to raise the sales tax and fund pre-K, lost $1.2 million in state funding and more than 200 state pre-K slots (though keep in mind that our figures include only state dollars, so pre-K slots funded by the sales tax increase are not reflected in these data).
FEBP is the only source of this critical information across the country and at the school district level. The FEBP website displays the information over the past five years, where available. These landmark pre-K data were first released last fall, and this year’s update includes additional information for the 2012 school year, as well as updated information for states that had not previously provided data. New America maintains the most comprehensive education funding database in the country, with information on funding, demographics, and outcomes for every state, school district, and institution of higher education in the nation.
It is important to note that some states collect data in a way that is notably different from others; the specific caveats for these states may be found on our pre-kindergarten data background page. Some states do not offer state-funded pre-K programs or did not provide the data. Pre-K programs funded through community-based organizations unaffiliated with school districts are not included in the data. For the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, FEBP was able to collect state pre-K enrollment data for 26 states and funding data for 16 states. FEBP also shows data for Head Start programs run by 186 school districts around the country.
The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) project is an initiative headed by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to create comparable, consistent data definitions. It’s an entirely voluntary initiative, and its glossary includes preschool through workforce data elements. CEDS is in the process of refining its version 4 dictionary – open for comments through Friday, September 20.
This month is labeled the first-ever “Attendance Awareness Month” by the advocacy group Attendance Works, and there is plenty to which we ought to be paying attention. A 2008 study by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) estimated that one out of every 10 children nationally is chronically absent (meaning he misses at least 10 percent of scheduled days) in his first two years of school.
Alignment is critical in early education policy. That goes for curriculum, instruction, standards, and much more. To be highly effective, public early education programs need to be: 1) accessible to those who need them, 2) high-quality, and 3) aligned with the rest of the education system. The last part is certainly key; we know, for example, that pre-K programs work best when they are designed in tandem with the K–12 system into which they feed. However, it is a mistake to think of alignment as perfectly linear, running from pre-K straight through college admission. Students are also their parents’ children—and those parents’ influence can support or undermine educators’ work. Can targeted policies help align parenting with schooling? Should policymakers dare to try?
Federal data suggest that in 2010, the nation’s nearly 1.3 million child care workers earned an average of around $9.28 per hour, or $19,300 per year. The lowest-paid 10 percent of workers earned less than $7.65 per hour. With statistics like that, it’s no wonder studies have found that child care workers leave the profession at high rates -- according to one study, more than half of teachers who left the centers at which they worked actually left the occupation entirely.
Almost every discussion of dual-language learning students in the United States begins with statistics illustrating their growing numbers. This is understandable, since the number of districts that inadequately meet dual language learners’ needs dwarfs the number that adopt intentionally-crafted, research-based approaches. Language learning experts emphasize the size of the DLL population in order to demand attention.
For the past two years, I’ve been following the creation and development of Next Generation Preschool Math, a research and development project funded by the National Science Foundation. The project is designed to shed light on how -- and if -- 4-year-olds can learn early math skills from apps designed to be used in classroom settings with teacher input and guidance.
In the early education policy world, the research consensus supporting public investment in high-quality pre-K programs is overwhelming. We know that money spent on these programs leads to big savings in the long run.
Like many in D.C.’s family-heavy Ward 4, Sam Chaltain sends his children to charter schools. His older son attends Latin American Montessori Bilingual, and his younger son will follow in a few years. This is just one of the area’s charters; it also boasts E.L. Haynes, Capital City, and several others that rank among the District’s very best, according to D.C.’s Public Charter School Board’s accountability rating system.
Forty states operate public pre-K programs, but 4-year-olds are far from guaranteed a seat in the classroom. Last year, the share of 4-year-olds enrolled in public pre-K ranged from nearly 80 percent in Florida to just shy of 1 percent in Rhode Island, in many cases because of limited funding or capacity.