Idaho ranks dead last for access to pre-K

Idaho landed at the bottom of a new national ranking released Wednesday — one focused on access to pre-K.

Only 32 percent of Idaho’s 3- and 4-year-olds are in school, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Idaho and North Dakota are tied for last place nationally. By comparison, 48 percent of the nation’s 3- and 4-year-olds attend school.

Idaho’s low ranking — based on reports from 2014 to 2016 — is not surprising. Idaho is one of only six states that does not fund pre-K. Gov. Butch Otter and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra have never sought state-funded pre-K, and legislators haven’t acted on bills to create state-funded pre-K pilot programs.

Access to pre-K has long been limited. From 2009 through 2011, 36 percent of Idaho 3- and 4-year-olds attended school. In 2015, that number was 31 percent.

In light of the latest rankings, an Idaho pre-K advocate urged the 2019 Legislature to revisit the issue.

“When 3- and 4-year-olds attend pre-K, they experience higher levels of educational attainment, career advancement and earnings later in life,” said Christine Tiddens, community outreach director for Idaho Voices for Children. “Idaho is missing opportunities to invest in proven measures to secure our state’s economic future.”

Pre-K advocates issued a statewide survey earlier this year, revealing widespread public support for state-funded programs.

Idaho fared better on other metrics in the KIDS COUNT report, receiving a No. 21 ranking overall.

Idaho ranked No. 12 in the nation for economic well-being, based in part on affordable housing. Idaho ranked No. 14 in the “Family and Community” category, which examined criteria such as poverty and single-family households.

In the education ranking — based on test scores, graduation rates and access to pre-K — Idaho ranked No. 40 nationally.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a Baltimore-based organization that focus on child welfare issues.

Click here to read the KIDS COUNT Idaho summary.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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