According to the State of Preschool 2012 report released Monday by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Missouri’s pre-kindergarten funding suffered an 18 percent reduction in 2012, resulting in $500 less being spent per child. This is the lowest amount of state spending per child enrolled that’s been seen in the past 10 years.
Missouri now ranks 33rd of 40 states with programs for resources dedicated to pre-K, dropping from 32nd in 2011.
“The findings in this report are disappointing,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. “It’s been proven time and time again that investing in early childhood education is imperative for the lifelong success of our kids. We need to make pre-k programs and the kids in our state a priority.”
One of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's primary goals is for all Missouri children to enter kindergarten prepared to be successful in school. This is part of the Department’s Top 10 by 20 initiative, which calls for education in Missouri to rank in the top 10 nationwide by 2020.
State of Preschool 2012 also ranks Missouri close to the bottom for pre-K enrollment, coming in at 34th, as the state serves only four percent of four-year-olds.
Quality of programs is also on the decline as Missouri lost one benchmark on NIEER’s quality standards checklist due to discontinuation of regular site visits to ensure the state’s quality standards are being met. Missouri pre-K now achieves eight of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for quality as opposed to nine in 2011.
Reductions were spread nationwide as 27 of 40 states with pre-K programs reported funding per child declined in 2011-2012. Only 15 states plus the District of Columbia provided enough funding per-child to meet all 10 benchmarks for quality standards. And, only 20 percent of all children enrolled in state-funded pre-K attend those programs. More than half a million children, or 42 percent of nationwide enrollment, were served by programs that met fewer than half of NIEER’s quality standards benchmarks.
The National Institute for Early Education Research at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University supports early childhood education policy and practice through independent, objective research. More information can be found at www.nieer.org.