Maryland’s state-funded prekindergarten program ranks in the top 10 states for percentage of children enrolled in the program, according to The State of Preschool 2008 released today.
The annual report produced by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranks all 50 states on the percentage of children served and spending per child for 2007-2008. It also compares the number of quality benchmarks met.
With 37 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds in state-funded preschool, Maryland ranks 9th out of 38 states that provide preschool education. The program saw a significant jump in the amount of state funding provided, now ranking at 19th (compared to 27th last year). With all sources of funding accounted for, Maryland jumps to third place nationally on resources. The program also met two more quality benchmarks this year, for a total of nine out of 10.
Nationally, the annual survey of state-funded preschool programs showed impressive expansion in enrollment and spending. However, it cautioned that the recession may reverse the trend, curtailing early education opportunities for children in lower and middle-income families.
Key findings include:
- Enrollment increased by more than 108,000 children. More than 1.1 million children attended state-funded preschool education, 973,178 at age 4 alone.
- Thirty-three of 38 states with state-funded programs increased enrollment.
- Based on NIEER’s Quality Standards Checklist, nine states improved the quality of their preschool programs. Only one fell back.
- State pre-K funding rose to almost $4.6 billion; from all reported sources to $5.2 billion, an increase of nearly $1 billion (23 percent) from 2007.
Whether or not a child receives high-quality preschool education depends on where his or her family lives. Twelve states provided no state-funded preschool in 2008. The report found a decline in the number of states providing sufficient funding to meet NIEER’s quality benchmarks.
Based at Rutgers University, NIEER has produced an annual report on state preschool programs since 2002.
Due to declining state revenues, the immediate future of state-funded preschool is uncertain. Generally, expenditures on pre-K are discretionary and easier to cut than expenditures for K-12 education and other programs.
NIEER Director Steve Barnett said states are considering cutting enrollment, reducing program standards, and postponing expansion plans even with the availability of new federal stimulus funds.
Of 38 states with state-funded preschool, cuts are likely in at least nine.
“A federal initiative is needed to support early learning and development,” said Barnett. “We propose that the federal government commit to doubling growth in state pre-K while raising quality standards so that by 2020 all 4-year-olds in America will have access to a good education.”
To do this, the federal government should match state spending with up to $2,500 for each enrolled child in state pre-K programs meeting basic quality standards. The federal government also should facilitate increased integration of child care, Head Start, and state pre-K.
Research shows that high-quality pre-K can help improve the educational success of all children, decrease dropout rates and crime and delinquency, and improve economic productivity and health.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (www.nieer.org), a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research. NIEER is supported through grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and others.