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NY Ranks 9th For Getting Kids into Pre-K

March 24, 2008

New York, NY - Nearly a quarter of the 4-year-olds living in 38 states—including New York—are now enrolled in state-funded preschool programs, but a new report finds the Empire State offering a mixed bag to these youngest of learners. While enrollment has taken a big jump, the state's spending on pre-K is still below the national average.

The "State of Pre-School 2007" report declares that attending pre-kindergarten classes can make a big difference as to whether a 3- or 4-year-old eventually makes it to high school graduation. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute on Early Education Research at Rutgers University, which issued the report, says New York does well when it comes to pre-K enrollment, ranking ninth in the country.

"Enrollment took a jump: More than a third of four-year-olds in New York now have access to state-funded pre-K. However, it's still a long way from offering preschool to all children in New York, which is the goal."

Although New York does provide pre-K funding, according to Barnett the state is below average in funding per child.

Another concern is that pre-K gets only part-day support from the state. Nancy Kolben with Child Care Inc. says her group is pushing for full-day funding. She says it makes a big difference for at-risk children and also for working families.

Kolben notes that last year was the first time every New York school district could get some state help to start pre-K.

“Some came in, some took a wait-and-see attitude: 'Is this money really going to be there, can I count on it?' Some didn't know who their community partners could be. We think we'll see another upsurge, as long as the money is there this next school year."

New York uses a community-partner approach, which some say can take longer to get rolling but brings benefits because it delivers pre-K education to kids in settings such as day care, where many already are enrolled. At least 180 new districts are ramping up to start pre-K programs next year.

The report is available at Michael Clifford/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY