Kim Johnson ReportingA new report gives Utah a spanking for not funding preschool education. The study comes from the National Institute for Early Education Research. It says the states need to step up to the plate in providing preschool education, and it points a finger at Utah, but Utah is not alone.
The study commends Oklahoma and Georgia for enrolling more than fifty percent of their four-year olds in preschool.
Steve Barnett, Nat'l Institute for Early Education Research: "Preschool is so important because these are foundational years, years in which children's brains develop more rapidly than any other period of time."
And research says the benefits of education in these early years carry on indefinitely. In fact, studies show kids who learn to read early and well, will out-perform their peers on reading tests in the 9th grade.
While more than 40 state provide some funding for preschool programs, Utah is one of ten states that doesn't provide any such funding.
Lynette Rasmussen, Director/State office of Child Care: "In Utah there seems to be a gap in what we know, and what we do. I think that's unfortunate because many children begin kindergarten already behind."
But many Utah kids have parents who can afford to pay for private preschools. And more than 24,000 are enrolled in regulated child-care centers.
Lynette Rasmussen: "Most child care programs in our state have a component of education, some type of cognitive activities that are happening during the day. They don't just have kids hang out all day long."
And some low-income youngsters are getting a jumpstart on their schooling through the federally funded Headstart program. But the study says it's not enough.
Steve Barnett, Natl. Institute for Early Education Research: "We can't afford not to have a publicly funded preschool system in the us. Our international competitors have them. Two states, Georgia and Oklahoma have committed to serving all of their four-year-olds. It can be done, and it costs us much more in the long run if we don't do it."
Other states besides Utah that don't provide state funding for preschools include: Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota.