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More states than ever are funding preschool. That is according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research or NIEER. NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: Forty-three states plus the District of Columbia and Guam today offer pre-K programs. They serve about 1.5 million children across the country, mostly 3 and 4 year olds. Total state spending on preschool is now about $7.4 billion, an 8 percent increase since last year. That increase has pushed spending to nearly $5,000 per child.
Overall, the quality of state-funded preschool programs has improved. Alabama and Rhode Island lead the way with standards that include smaller class sizes and well-trained teachers. So yes, these findings are encouraging, but Steve Barnett, head of NIEER, cautions that the quality of preschool programs nationwide is very uneven.
STEVEN BARNETT: The growing inequality between the states that have moved ahead and states who do nothing is really stark.
SANCHEZ: Barnett says the reasons for that vary. Florida, for example, spends roughly half of what Alabama and most other states spend. And many of these programs only reach a fraction of their 3 and 4 year olds. Seven states do not fund preschool at all. Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.
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