Report: Idaho among dwindling number of states choosing not to invest in preschool

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While most states enrolled more young children in public preschool, Idaho remains one of seven states opting not to fund early education programs, according to “The State of Preschool 2017” report issued Wednesday by the National Institute of Early Education Research.

“The State of Preschool” annual report is the only national report on state-funded preschool programs. This year’s report, based on 2016-17 academic year data, includes a special section on policies affecting Dual Language Learners, and highlights changes since 2002, when NIEER began tracking state pre-K.

“Recent changes in federal policy – including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – make it clear that progress in early education depends more than ever on the states,” said NIEER Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett. “Our report highlights which states invest best in their young children and which leave too many children behind. Idaho is one state leaving children behind.” 

Research shows early childhood education can help prepare all children for greater success in elementary school and beyond – but only if quality is high. Enrollment in state-funded preschool programs has more than doubled since 2002, with more than 1.5 million children now enrolled nationwide.

National highlights include:

  • 43 states, D.C. and Guam provide publicly funded preschool to more than 1.5 million children

  • 7 states, including Idaho, do not invest in preschool programs

  • 10 states enroll 50% or more of their 4-year-olds in public pre-K

  • States spent a total of $7.6 billion on pre-K in 2016-17, a 2% increase from the previous year (inflation-adjusted) while real state spending per child enrolled in pre-K decreased

  • Alabama, Michigan and Rhode Island are the only states meeting all 10 new quality standards benchmarks

  • Most states don’t know how many dual language learners are enrolled in pre-K and most do not require pre-K teachers to have any training specific to working with DLLs

“Most developed nations now offer universal preschool – even China has committed to pre-K for every 4-year-old by 2020,” Dr. Barnett said. “Meanwhile, the United States has made little progress … This is no way to compete globally now or in the future. Our first step back to leadership is quality preschool.”