D.C. Nabs Top Spot for Pre-K Access, Funding

Washington, D.C. provides the best access and funding to state-funded pre-kindergarten programs in the country, a new study reports.

According to a national study conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), more than 9 in 10 4-year-olds in the District of Columbia attended such a program during the 2012-13 school year, while 10 states have no such program. The District also serves about three-quarters of 3-year-olds.

“We are pleased to see the continued commitment to expanding early learning opportunity in the District of Columbia, as it leads the nation in ensuring access to pre-K with high standards and adequate funding,” said NIEER director Steve Barnett.

A number of states had fairly high enrollments, according to the report released Tuesday, though slightly lower than the District. More than 7 out of 10 4-year-olds in Florida, Oklahoma and Vermont were in such programs, while about 6 in 10 in Iowa, Georgia, West Virginia and Wisconsin were enrolled.

Maryland's access to pre-K programs landed it the number 12 spot on the study's list while the 26th spot went to Virginia.

According to the study, Virginia spends $900 less per child than it did in 2002 and only meets six of the study's 10 quality standard benchmarks.

“The Recession may be a culprit, but other states have demonstrated it need not be an excuse for inaction, particularly as their economies recover,” Barnett said.

Maryland has done a better job at providing access and resources to pre-K programs. The state was one of just 20 to increase enrollment of 4-year-olds in the 2012-2013 school year.

Nationally, 4,000 fewer children enrolled in state-funded pre-K in the 2012-2013 school year than the year before. Twenty states cut funding while 10 don't even provide state pre-K programs. Overall, $5.4 billion was spent by states on pre-K funding for about 1.3 million preschoolers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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