No funding, but some hope: What a national report says about pre-K in Idaho

Idaho is one of seven states that does not fund pre-kindergarten, but a national study finds some glimmer of hope.

“Idaho has been focused on the future,” the National Institute for Early Education Research said in a recent report on early education in the states.

The report cites several promising developments: a 2015 “pay for success” contract law that the nonprofit Lee Pesky Learning Center hopes to apply to early education; the formation of an early childhood steering committee, made up of Idaho early learning advocates; and a three-year, $450,000 W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant focused on building public support for pre-K in Idaho.

Without state-run pre-K programs, however, options are limited across much of Idaho.

About 3,000 students attend state- and federally funded Head Start programs and about 2,000 students attend special education programs — but about 90 percent of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds have no access to a state-supported pre-K program.

Pre-kindergarten enrollment and funding increased across the U.S. in 2015-16, according to the NIEER study.

State funding for pre-K increased by $564 million in 2016-17 — an 8 percent increase, when adjusted for inflation. Pre-K enrollment grew by more than 40,000 students and approached 1.5 million.

But change has been “uneven,” the report said.

“Some states moved boldly ahead, while others stagnated, and a few regressed,” the report said.

Affiliated with Rutgers University in New Jersey, NIEER says its mission is to conduct research “to inform policy supporting high-quality, early education for all young children.”

Click here to read the NIEER report; Idaho is covered on pages 65 and 66.