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Report: Fewer Than Half of U.S. Children Attend Preschool

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual Kids Count report is out and shows that 53 percent of U.S. children who were 3 and 4-year-olds did not participate in preschool in the three years spanning 2008-2010. While that means that fewer than half of our youngest learners were enrolled in a preschool program, that participation rate was an improvement over the previous three-year period, when 56 percent did not attend preschool, according to the report.

Not surprising, Latino children had the lowest participation rates, with 63 percent not attending preschool. Hispanic families have historically had the lowest enrollment rates in preschool programs.

Asian-American kids had the best preschool participation of any major racial and ethnic group, with more than half attending (48 percent were not enrolled). That was slightly better than the rates for African-American and white children. Both of those groups had non-participation rates of 50 percent, while 59 percent of American Indian children did not attend preschool.

New Jersey and Connecticut had the lowest numbers of children not enrolled in preschool programs, at 36 percent and 38 percent respectively. New Jersey has invested heavily in its public prekindergarten programs, especially in the state's poorest cities where large numbers of African-American and Latino children are benefitting. Nevada, Arizona, and North Dakota had the highest percentages of children who were not enrolled in pre-K programs, according to the report.

While preschool participation overall has increased over the last decade—even through the recession years—public spending on such programs has taken a big hit and has raised numerous concerns about declining quality.

For more details on the 2012 Kids Count report, read my colleague Sarah Sparks' account.

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