Vermont Seen as National Leader in State Pre-K Access



Washington, D.C. —  Vermont continues to demonstrate national leadership for its commitment to pre-K access even as many states are faltering in their efforts to deliver high-quality preschool education to children most in need, says a landmark national report capping 10 years of research.

The State of Preschool 2011: State Preschool Yearbook shows Vermont has made tremendous progress in expanding access to early education over the last decade. Ten years ago the state ranked 18th for access. By 2010-2011, the Green Mountain State served a higher combined percentage of 3- and 4-years than any other state. Enrollment of 4-year-olds improved to 3rd after increasing enrollment by 17 percent for 4-year-olds over the previous year. Vermont also ranks 3rd for enrollment of 3-year-olds. The state has lost ground in its resource ranking, due in part to the delay in funding based on the current funding formula. It has not made commensurate gains in quality, meeting only four of 10 research-based quality standards benchmarks.

“For the second year in a row, nationally we’re seeing declines in real spending and per-child spending that strip resources from pre-K classrooms, many of which are already funded at levels below what it takes to deliver high-quality programs,” said Steve Barnett, director of the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University that has surveyed state preschool programs on a number of measures since 2001-2002.

Vermont Business Roundtable President Lisa Ventriss responded, “Vermont has become a leader in expanding access to early education through sustained bipartisan legislative efforts and gubernatorial support. Now it must turn its attention to improving quality standards which have not seen progress for years. While many local programs may exceed these standards, Vermont must improve statewide quality requirements to ensure the investments in pre-k are paying off, and that all children have the best possible outcomes from high-quality early education for long-term benefits.”

Nationally, the report shows a different picture as states that began or improved pre-K programs are now reducing their investments. In fact, many children who need access to high-quality pre-K programs still cannot attend.

Twenty-eight percent of all 4-year-olds and 4 percent of 3-year-olds were served by state pre-K programs in the 2010-2011 school year, raising total enrollment to more than 1.3 million. But some states have opted to expand enrollment rather than maintain quality, resulting in greater access but lower standards. “If ignored, states run the risk of substituting inexpensive child care for preschool education,” Barnett said.

State pre-K generally has enjoyed bipartisan support during its expansion over the past decade. An overwhelming body of research shows that high-quality pre-K prepares children to succeed in school, enroll in college or career training, and helps more students ultimately get better jobs that can help the nation’s economy. This year’s report highlights national trends in pre-K programs over past 10 years.

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