State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten: What the Evidence Shows. III. Some states have successfully offered pre-kindergarten programs

12/01/2003

According to a 2000-2001 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), many publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs offered to children in public schools have qualified teachers, provide access to meals, transportation, and extended day care, and have appropriate class sizes.(10) Specifically, 86% of pre-kindergarten teachers in publicly funded programs had baccalaureate degrees.(11) Seventy-nine percent of schools with pre-kindergarten classes had transportation services, 74% provided meals and 18% offered extended day care. The average number of children per class was 17 (20 is the maximum recommended class size, with a recommended child to adult ratio of 1 to 10).(12) In addition, of the children served, 61% were from families with low income. Thirty-two percent of the classes were full day. The survey included programs that were funded with federal, state, or local dollars or with some combination of public funds; 80% of the programs surveyed were funded with state and/or local dollars. It also included programs devoted exclusively to providing special education services.

The NCES report indicates that, overall, public investments in pre-kindergarten are being used to offer programs that have characteristics associated with quality(13), that programs are beginning to recognize the needs of working parents, and that public pre-kindergarten includes economically disadvantaged children who are at risk for poor school achievement. However, the primary goal of this report is to examine programs that are primarily funded, implemented and administered by the states, and that go beyond providing special education programs to offer broader early education and extended services to children at risk for poor school outcomes. A compilation of data across reports shows that many of these state-funded pre-kindergarten programs meet key indicators of quality.

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