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Florida Continues To Lead The Nation In State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten Access To Four-Year Olds

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. While Florida led the nation in state pre-kindergarten enrollment, its relatively low rankings in both quality and spending continue to underscore areas of significant need.

Resources:  Pre-K state funding increased slightly from the previous year; however, Florida continues to rank toward the bottom nationally in spending.

Ranked 40th in the nation and down one spot from the 2014-2015 school year, Florida spent an average of $2353 per child in 2015-2016 - an increase of only $45 from the previous year (inflation adjusted). This was over $2000 less than the national average. Additionally, Florida ranked 43rd 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: Florida continues to lead the nation in pre-kindergarten access to four-year-olds.

Florida ranked 2nd in the nation in pre-kindergarten access for four-year-olds, serving 76% of eligible children. While this is a noteworthy, Florida does not provide state-funded pre-kindergarten to three-year-olds.

Quality:  Thirty percent of new quality benchmarks were met.

Florida met only three of ten new quality benchmarks for its pre-kindergarten program. Areas for improvement include teacher training and credential requirements, staff-child classroom ratios and vision, hearing and health screenings and referrals.

According to the US Census Bureau, more than a quarter of Florida children five years of age and younger live in poverty. Helios Education Foundation believes that access to a high-quality early learning environment is crucial in a child’s development. With a large number of three- and four-year-olds living in poverty, the condition of Florida’s pre-kindergarten programs underscore the significant need to address both quality and spending through policies and programs. By prioritizing early childhood education, Florida will increase student success in school and beyond.

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

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

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