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.

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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