By MARY KUHLMAN
COLUMBUS, Ohio - It’s not the best mix for quality, according to a new report: More children making their way into state-funded pre-kindergarten classrooms, but a lot less money to support early education.
Dr. Steve Barnett directs the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research, and his group says national per-child spending dropped by $145 last year, and over the past decade by $700 per child.
Barnett says Ohio bounced up and down in terms of pre-K over the past decade.
“Most recently it’s down, only 2 percent of children in Ohio are enrolled in state-funded pre-K, and when it comes to quality it meets only two of our 10 benchmarks for quality standards. That’s the worst in the country.”
The “State of Pre-School 2011” report finds that Ohio ranks 26th in the nation for early education spending.
GroundWork advocates for access to quality early childhood experiences for all children in Ohio, and Director Katie Kelly says that, while the state is making great strides to increase access to services, more investment is needed.
“We know that early education is one of the best - if not the best - tool for making sure children have success in those early grades and beyond.”
Ohio was recently awarded a Race to the Top grant and will receive $70 million to improve the quality of programs that serve high-needs children from birth to age five.
Barnett says Ohio is far from alone as many states try to do more with less.
“Enrollment is up over the last decade in state-funded pre-K, but spending per child declined, over $700 less than it was a decade ago, and that’s undermined the ability to provide a quality education.”