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Arizona Rankings in Recent State of Preschool Report Reveal Room for Improvement in Access, Resources, and Quality of State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten Programs

Author: Michelle Boehm, Research and Evaluation Analyst

According to the State of Preschool Report recently released by the National Institute for Early Education Research, enrollment in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs in the United States rose to a record high in 2015-2016. Nationally, 32% of four-year-olds and 5% of three-year-olds were served by these programs.

The State of Preschool Report profiles state-funded preschool programs in the United States, including individual state rankings. Arizona’s performance reveals room for improvement across all areas, including pre-K access, resources and quality.

Resources:  Pre-K state funding remains relatively stagnant compared to the previous school year.

Ranked 32nd in the nation, Arizona spent an average of $3444 per child in 2015-2016 - an increase of $363 from the previous year (inflation adjusted). At the same time, this is still approximately $1500 less than the national average. Additionally, Arizona ranked 39th in the nation for all reported spending on pre-K (i.e., local, state, and federal funding), down two spots from the previous year.

Access: The relatively small percentage of eligible three and four-year olds enrolled in state-funded pre-K indicates an opportunity for increased access.

Arizona ranked 21st in the nation for pre-kindergarten access to three-year-olds and 37th for four-year-olds (two and four percent of the eligible population, respectively). Arizona’s three-year-old access ranking fell one spot from the previous year and two spots for four-year-olds.

Quality:  Forty percent of quality benchmarks were met.

Arizona met four of ten quality benchmarks for its state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. Areas for improvement include teacher training and credential requirements, smaller class sizes and lower staff to student ratios. 

Helios Education Foundation believes that education is an investment, not an expense, and that education changes lives and strengthens communities. The ages between birth and eight are the most critical in a child’s development. Ensuring young children have access to quality learning environments, regardless of race, income, or geography, provides many proven individual and societal benefits. By prioritizing early childhood education funding, access and quality, the state of Arizona will increase student success across the education continuum and beyond.

Click here to see Arizona’s most recent State of Preschool report.

Click here to learn more about Helios' Early Grade Success work. 

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