Vermont Ranks Second In The U.S. For Access To Preschool
Vermont deserves high marks for making preschool available to every 3, 4 and 5 year old, according to a report released Monday by a national research organization based at Rutgers University.
Each year, the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER, publishes a profile of every state. With its plan for universal access to pre-K, Vermont is second only to the District of Columbia.
Yet it ranks only 20th when it comes to state spending on preschool. And it gets low marks for setting quality standards.
Institute Director Steve Barnett admits Vermont’s emerging preschool system may be better and more adequately funded than the report suggests, because so many of its programs are private, not public. The report can only measure state spending and mandates, not programs under local control.
“Well, our report is a very blunt instrument,” Barnett conceded. “We don’t even look at quality; we look at quality standards. And in a local control state, states tend not to look good, so Vermont only meets four out of the 10 benchmarks. But the reality is, if you went and looked at programs in Vermont … many of them do meet these standards.”
"In a local control state, states tend not to look good, so Vermont only meets four out of the 10 benchmarks. But the reality is if you went and looked at programs in Vermont ... many of them do meet these standards." - Steve Barnett, director of NIEER
And Barnett said good private-public partnerships may explain why Vermont has competed successfully for millions of dollars in federal grants to build a universal pre-K system. Starting with the 2016-2017 school year, all districts must offer at least 10 hours of pre-kindergarten per week to all 3, 4, and 5 year olds. Barnett said states like Vermont, which are seeing declining enrollments from K-12, are wise to shift resources to younger children because over time, early education pays off, not only for the kids, but for state taxpayers.
"Down the road you're going to be paying less for special education, fewer kids will repeat grades, these kids will get better jobs and earn higher salaries and they'll stay out of jail."
“Down the road you’re going to be paying less for special education, fewer kids will repeat grades, these kids will get better jobs and earn higher salaries and they’ll stay out of jail,” he predicted.
The report also shows promising trends nationwide. Adjusted for inflation, state funding for pre-K increased by nearly $120 million in 2013-14 across all states and Washington, D.C.