Oklahoma Leads Nation In Pre-K Enrollment

Monday, October 29th 2007, 7:37 pm
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ The South leads the nation in providing state-funded pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds, a new report from the Southern Regional Education Board says.

Last year, nearly five out of eight 4-year-olds attending publicly funded pre-K in the U.S. were enrolled in programs in the 16 member states of the Atlanta-based education nonprofit.

The report, released Monday, called for state policy makers to dedicate more money to pre-K so that every 4-year-old has the opportunity to attend early education programs, shown to be critical in shaping a child's future.

``Studies on prekindergarten dating from the 1960s make clear the investment pays off in education, health, social, civic and economic ways,'' SREB President David Spence wrote in the report. ``Increasing funding and finding sustainable sources, especially to keep pace with enrollment and inflation, are difficult but necessary.''

Five Southern states in the study enrolled 40% or more of their 4-year-olds in public pre-K programs last year: Oklahoma with 70%, Georgia with 51%, Florida with 47%, Texas with 44% and West Virginia with 40%.

One out of three 4-year-olds in the South attended a public pre-K program last year with a total enrollment of nearly half a million. That compares with the national rate of one in five. Total enrollment of 4-year-olds in public pre-K in the U.S. was 800,000.

The SREB was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to advise on education policy for the region. It has 16 member states spanning a territory from Florida to Maryland to Texas.

The SREB report mirrors a study released in June by the Southern Education Foundation. That study found that 19% of 3- and 4-year-olds in the South are enrolled in public pre-K, compared to 12% in the Northeast, 9% in the Midwest and 5.6% in the West.

The report showed that all six states requiring full-day pre-K programs are in the South and that nine southern states fund pre-K above the national average cost per child.