- NC Policy Watch - https://www.ncpolicywatch.com -

Monday numbers: A closer look at the lack of educational services for Pre-K kids

[1]Much attention has been paid to learning loss during the pandemic in elementary and middle school grades, but what about our youngest learners? A new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University examines the barriers pre- and post-pandemic that have left many 3- and 4-year-olds unserved by prekindergarten.

The research finds the COVID-19 pandemic has made access to high-quality preschool more difficult. Funding has been stagnant in many states, and pandemic-related fears have prompted parents to choose not to enroll their children in Pre-K.

Education experts say that Pre-K is not only important for children to learn how to socialize and interact with others at an early age, but it also lays a foundation for their future success.

Quality, accessible Pre-K is also crucial to for mothers to return to work. An estimated two million women were forced to leave [2] the workforce during the pandemic, many due to child care issues.

Moving forward, the NIEER report recommends to state lawmakers:

Business as usual is not good enough — too many children are missing out on the opportunity to attend high-quality preschool, which research shows can set children on a trajectory to better academic and lifetime outcomes.

There is an opportunity now to increase funding for high-quality preschool. There is bipartisan support for preschool and President Biden has made universal preschool access a priority of his administration. There is no time like the present to accelerate the trajectory of increasing access to high-quality, full-day preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. It will not be easy, but the goal of universal access to high quality preschool for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds, and even all 3- and 4-year-olds, is achievable. The longer we wait to start, the more children will miss out on this opportunity — one that they can never get back.”

Here’s a closer by-the-numbers look at Pre-K access, based on research from the new State of Preschool Yearbook [3].

31,059 — Total number of North Carolina’s 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-kindergarten, 2019-2020

25% — Percent of at-risk 4-year-olds enrolled in Pre-K in North Carolina

26 — North Carolina’s rank among states in preschool access

51% — Percent of children who are low-income in North Carolina

$5,499 — National average of state funding per child, 2019-2020

$5,355  — North Carolina average of state spending per child (including TANF)  in 2019-2020, down $174 from the previous year

$10,122 — Total Pre-K spending per child in North Carolina, including federal, state, and local funding sources

$10,147 — Minimum per child cost of full-day, high-quality preschool in North Carolina

$787,304 — Additional dollars needed to meet quality standards for existing state preschool seats in North Carolina

86,228  — Seat gap, the number of low-income 3- and  4-year-olds who are not being served by high-quality, full-day preschool in North Carolina

$1,789,877,106 — Projected cost to provide universal high-quality, full-day preschool to North Carolina’s 3-and 4-year-olds

4 — Number of states (NJ, NC, OK, WV), plus the District of Columbia  that spend enough to pay for high-quality full-day (6 hours per day, 180 days per year) Pre-K

3.5 million — Estimated number of 3- and 4-year-olds in the U.S. who still do not attend preschool in a classroom

40% — Percent of children in low- and middle-income families who remain unserved

$30 billion — Estimated cost to expand access to high-quality full-day preschool to all low-income 3- and 4-year-olds nationwide

$62 billion — Amount needed to reach the 5 million children nationwide who are currently unserved

$1.3 billion — Amount North Carolina will receive from the American Rescue Plan to help the ailing child care industry: $503 million for the child development block grant, which can be used to help cover tuition and $805 million for a “child care stabilization fund.”

Source: STATE PRESCHOOL YEARBOOK/The National Institute for Early Education Research
Source: STATE PRESCHOOL YEARBOOK/The National Institute for Early Education Research
Source: STATE PRESCHOOL YEARBOOK/The National Institute for Early Education Research

Read the full report here [3].