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CA Study: Latino Preschool Rates Decline

August 31, 2011

The number of Latino children attending preschool has declined, a new report says, even though Latinos represent more than half of all California children under age 5.

The findings, in a report from the University of California-Berkeley, are troubling to educators, who say preschool is vital to closing the achievement gap.

Only 48 percent of Latino children are enrolled in preschool, the report says. Catherine Atkin, who heads Preschool California, calls the study troubling. She says her group conducted a poll of Latino voters in the state, and found that 83 percent believe it's very important for children to attend preschool before going to kindergarten.

"We know from our own research that it's not about Latino families not thinking preschool's important. So, we really need to look at what are the economic factors and what are the very short supply of preschool availability in communities where there's high concentration of Latinos."

Atkin says preschool is vital to closing the achievement gap.

"Kids who have access to a high-quality preschool experience do better when they enter K-12 education. They're more successful in school and they do better when they graduate. We know that the investment in preschool gives great returns. "

Researchers say the enrollment decline might be attributed to the lack of preschools, the result of the government's inability to keep pace with the growing Latino population. Other possible reasons include parents who've lost their jobs and decided to keep children at home, or budget cuts that have reduced financial aid for publicly-funded preschools.

More information is online at first5la.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA