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States spending less on pre-kindergarten, research says

6:34 AM, Apr 10, 2012   |    comments
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(NBC) -- Brand new this morning: a report that some might call "little kids left behind."

There are more three and four-year-olds entering state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, but less money to teach them.

Adjusting for inflation and what Washington kicks in, we're actually seeing states spend less now on Pre-K programs than they did a decade ago, and advocates are concerned.

5-year-old Dior Henderson is not yet in kindergarten, but she's already learning. "Just having that different set of different people other than your family to learn from and just to be around from," says Aquila Watson, Dior's Mom.

Dior's among the 1.3 million preschoolers enrolled in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs.

All but 11 states have them. This morning, the National Institute for Early Education Research reports enrollments are up, but despite $127-million from the federal government, state spending hit a new low last year; down $145 per student.

Overall, that's $60-million less, double the drop from a year earlier.

Advocates say without Pre-K, many students are doomed to fail. "They don't behave well. They don't learn much. They don't get rewarded by the school. Before you know it, they're on a path to high school dropout. That's a pathway to prison," said the Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, Steve Barnett.

Quality is another concern. Only 12 states met all the group's benchmarks for quality Pre-K classes. "We have comprehensive screenings and assessments for our kids to make sure that if they need early prevention, if they need a dental checkup, if they need glasses, that all those things are available to them," says the Director of DC Public Schools Office of Early Childhood Education, Danielle Ewen.

About a third of 4-year-olds and fewer than one in 10 three-year-olds are enrolled in these programs

A clearer look this morning at a growing problem affecting America's youngest students.

NBC

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