More preschoolers but less money, report says

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new report that some might call "little kids left behind," shows that there are more three- and four-year-olds entering state-funded pre-kindergarten programs - but less money to teach them.

Adjusting for inflation and what Washington kicks in, states are actually spending less on preschool programs than they did a decade ago, and advocates are concerned.

5-year-old Dior Henderson is not yet in kindergarten, but she's already learning. "Just having that different set of different people other than your family to learn from and just to be around from," said Aquila Watson, Dior's mother.

Dior's among the 1.3 million preschoolers enrolled in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs.

All but 11 states have them. Tuesday morning, the National Institute for Early Education Research reportsenrollments are up, but despite $127 million from the federal government, state spending hit a new low last year, down $145 per student.

Overall, that's $60 million less, double the drop from a year earlier.

Advocates say without pre-kindergarten, many students are doomed to fail. "They don't behave well. They don't learn much," said the NIEER director Steve Barnett. "They don't get rewarded by the school. Before you know it, they're on a path to (becoming a) high school dropout. That's a pathway to prison."

Quality is another concern. Only 12 states met all the group's benchmarks for quality pre-kindergarten classes.

"We have comprehensive screenings and assessments for our kids to make sure that if they need early prevention, if they need a dental checkup, if they need glasses, that all those things are available to them," said Danielle Ewen, the Director of DC Public Schools Office of Early Childhood Education.

About a third of 4-year-olds and fewer than one in ten 3-year-olds are enrolled in these programs.

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Tracie Potts, NBC News


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