Fifty-one percent of 3-year olds and seventy-four percent of 4-year olds are in some form of pre-k, with programs including the federal Head Start program, state-funded pre-k, and private pre-school programs. In 2007, one million 3 and 4-year olds attended state-funded pre-k programs, up by 80,000 from 2006.
The percentage of children without access to pre-k varies from state to state, with twelve states having no pre-k programs, and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) writing, “The chances for a child to benefit from state pre-K are largely determined by the state where he or she lives.” In states with pre-k systems, children without pre-k are largely from families with too much income for federal and state income-qualified programs and not enough income to afford private pre-school tuitions. A November 2008 Pew-funded report coins the gapping of the middle-class the “Pre-K Pinch” and advocates for increasing access to high-quality state pre-k.
"Many economically-advanced countries provide free preschool for all children," says Sara Watson, senior officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts, a key NIEER funder. "If the United States is to remain competitive in a global economy, we cannot lose a single child. We must invest in preschool education that will help put every child on the right track to succeed."
The universalization of pre-k will be an education leap forward on the scale of the GI bill and the Pell grant, but for now, the movement towards a tipping point of universality is in limbo and depends on the stimulus and state budget decisions. In one scenario, states will keep their pre-k funding budgets stable thanks to a Washington bailout while additional stimulus favored by the Democrats will create 350,000 new pre-k seats (while creating 15,000 early childhood teaching and teaching assistant jobs). In a grimmer scenario for pre-k, Republicans will gut pre-k from the stimulus legislation and the bailout for the states will leave some particularly hard-hit states with budget shortfalls that trigger decreases in pre-k funding level. Whatever happens over the next two weeks, in the years ahead, the country will likely redefine formal schooling as beginning at age four—and eventually at age three.
Steve Bannon and Eva Moskowitz Trash Talk Trump
2 hours ago