Kids Count 2012 Data Book Reveals Low Numbers in Preschool Education across the Races Fewer than half (47%) of all American children attended preschool from 2008-2010. However this number, as was reported in the Anne E. Casey Foundation’s 23rd annual Kids Count Data Book, is up 5% from the previous three-year span (2005-2007). The raw numbers showed that Hispanics were disproportionately the ones not going to preschool programs with a total of 63% not attending; non-Hispanic Whites and African Americans even with a non-participation rate of 50% and Asians had the lowest non-participation rate at 48%. This leads one to wonder if this small increase is good enough. At a time in education when the threat of the Common Core Curriculum has many teachers and administrators struggling to get a grip on their plans for the future, these numbers, which show that some of the most vulnerable of students are lacking in important preparation for school, are especially stark. The Skills Preschool Teaches As a parent of a preschooler, there were many decisions that I had to make when it came to choosing which school my daughter would attend. Since I work from home and make a decent middle class income, the choices I had before me were pretty vast. Although the price I pay per month for half-day, three-day-a-week preschool is still quite high. The school I ultimately chose had a special emphasis on building the skills needed for kindergarten. This included independent toileting, social interaction, communal meals, and activity transitions. These social skills are what kindergarten teachers facing the demands of greater education standards need in place in order to successfully add in the academics from the start. A child exiting kindergarten these days is expected to be reading independently and listening to chapter books, and that cannot be accomplished without a foundation in letters as well as the ability to conduct oneself within the classroom environment. Though there are many parents out there who consciously keep their children out of preschool for other reasons, these parents, like me, are usually able to help their children prepare for at least the academic rigors of kindergarten. This ability is sorely lacking among low income and ill-educated parents, who were disproportionately represented in the 53% of families not sending children to preschool. The Costs of Early Education While the demands of kindergarten and all subsequent grades continue to increase, the ability for schools to provide universal and subsidized pre-k have vastly diminished. Living in a rather affluent suburb of New York City, my home district was one of many this year to cut out their preschool program in order to preserve other activities and extracurriculars that impacted more children. The subsidized preschool program in my district served, on average, 19 kids per year. With an ever-rising property tax bill, the school board chose instead to keep JV and Middle School sports along with a host of after school clubs, affecting hundreds of kids. This story has become all too familiar in the years following the Great Recession which left many states bankrupt or nearly so. As a result, much of the aid school districts received in former years was slashed and the burdens passed on to the tax payers. Here, like in many other districts, taxpayers are fed up with the rising costs of school taxes, leading fewer resources in place to provide preschool programs where they are needed. This reality is on par with the rest of the numbers in the Kids Count report which showed that children living in households with a high housing cost burden jumped between 2005 and 2010 from 37% to 41%. Furthermore, children living in homes where parents do not have secure employment soared by 22%. It’s no wonder that the numbers of children going to preschool changed at such a small rate. Kids Count 2012 The information contained in the Kids Count 2012 Data Sheet covers 16 different benchmarks that span from healthcare access to education to relative poverty level to family and the community. The biggest theme of this latest report is the impact that the economic downturn which began with the Great Recession of 2008 has had and the serious repercussions in many economic fields. The extent of this impact varied across the races, leading to some interesting conclusions regarding the future of the nation. For more information and the complete report, visit the Anne E. Casey Foundation’s website.
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