Pre-K programs grow significantly — but not in Idaho

Across the country, states spent $6.2 billion on pre-K programs in 2014-15, a $553 million increase.

Boise-Pre-K-Pilot-Program
The city of Boise is helping to fund a pre-K pilot program in the Boise School District.

These programs served nearly 1.4 million students, up more than 37,000 from the previous year.

The National Institute for Early Education Research chronicled these increases in a recent report — and noted something that isn’t news to Idahoans. Idaho remains one of only eight states without state-funded pre-K. (Earlier this year, another report said Idaho was one of only five states that does not fund pre-K.)

“Idaho’s economic future depends on early investment in its youngest citizens,” Institute Director Steve Barnett said in a news release. “Ensuring that every child has access to high-quality preschool can help to pave the way for their success in school, on the job, and in Idaho communities.”

A small percentage of Idaho preschoolers have access to early education, according to the New Brunswick, N.J.-based institute.

  • In all, 1,568 3-year-olds were enrolled in special education and Head Start programs in 2014-15 — or 6.9 percent of the state’s 3-year-olds.
  • Meanwhile, 3,114 4-year-olds attended special education and Head Start in 2014-15, a 13.3 percent enrollment rate.

These enrollment numbers were virtually unchanged from 2013-14.

The report listed one potential bright spot: a 2015 “Pay for Success” state contract law that could encourage outside groups to invest in pre-K. A nonprofit group, the Lee Pesky Early Learning Center, is looking at applying the contract model to early literacy instruction.