Although many states, including Kansas, are subsidizing public preschool for growing numbers of children, Missouri is serving fewer than it did five years ago.
The National Institute for Early Education Research on Wednesday released its yearly review of state-funded preschool. It found that more states are spending more money to enroll more children in higher-quality preschools. That’s important because children who attend good preschools on average do better on social and learning yardsticks.
Nationally, spending bumped to $3,642 per child, reversing four years of falling support. And for the first time, more than 1 million children nationwide were enrolled in state-funded preschool during the 2006-2007 school year.
Locally, the picture differs quite a bit between Kansas and Missouri.
Support for preschool is reflected in Kansas’ At-Risk Four-Year-Old Children Preschool Program. From the 2001-2002 school year, enrollment grew 168 percent to 5,971 in 2006-2007.
In Missouri, enrollment for 3- and 4-year-olds in 2006-2007 was 4,972, a 12-percent increase over the year before, but a 12-percent drop from 2001-2002. One factor has been stagnant funding, said Jo Anne Ralston, director of Early Childhood Education for the state education department.
“Legislators have crafted bills to get more funding for preschool, but there has not been a lot of support,” she said. On the contrary, Ralston said, Missouri’s preschool program competes with veterans and other constituencies for fees from casinos.