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National Report: FL Ranks First in Pre-K Access to Children

April 16, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida ranks number one among the states when it comes to access to Pre-K, as surveyed across the country. However, the Sunshine State is slipping when it comes to per-student spending, according to a report released this month by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

The study noted that the state does not require a college education for its teachers and has a higher student-to-teacher ratio than is recommended.

Jim Squires, a Senior Research Fellow at NIEER who helped write the report, says the nation's children aren't coming out on top.

"They're losing ground. They are the ones who are not having access to these early-learning programs, early-education programs, that are quality, that are going to make a difference."

More than 160,000 children are enrolled in Pre-K in Florida, in large part thanks to a state constitutional amendment passed in 2002 requiring Pre-K access for all.

The annual money spent on each child in the program dropped by about $75.

Nationwide, the NIEER study found that state funding for pre-K has decreased by $60 million in the last year. This is the second year of total decline in spending.

Squires says early childhood education is imperative for preparation for kindergarten and beyond.

"And many children simply don't have the opportunity before they enter kindergarten to be in environments where they are able to get the prerequisite skills."

Although Florida gets high marks for access to Pre-K, the state program only meets three of the ten quality standards set by NIEER.

View Florida information at www.nieer.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL