State Designation Can Improve Pre-K

By Linda Jacobson — March 30, 2005 1 min read

Allowing state-financed pre-K programs to be delivered in community-based centers, as well as in public schools, has the potential to improve the quality of those centers while also meeting the scheduling needs of working parents, says a study by the Center for Law and Social Policy, a Washington- based advocacy and research organization.

If child-care centers are required to meet the same standards demanded of school-based programs, the study asserts, they will advance.

The report, All Together Now: State Experiences in Using Community-Based Child Care to Provide Pre-Kindergarten,” is available from the Center for Law and Social Policy. ()

Although some states have designed their programs to address both the quality and parental needs goals, they are also missing opportunities, the authors say.

For example, some center directors might be unaware that they are eligible to provide state-financed pre-K. Even if they are, they might not have access to opportunities to help teachers acquire the same level of training required by those in school-based programs.

“The biggest barrier to community-based programs providing prekindergarten appears to be meeting and maintaining teacher-education and -certification requirements without adequate funding and supports,” the study says.

The researchers conducted a survey of state-financed pre-K programs and found 29 states that allow a “mixed-delivery system” of schools and community-based centers.

With more than 740,000 children now enrolled in public pre-K nationwide, the authors also offer some recommendations to help guide states.

At least a minimum proportion of pre-K classes should be provided in child-care settings that provide full-day, year-round services, they recommend, and pre-K funding from the state should be used to augment instead of replace existing resources. Such a policy would allow providers to continue to offer full-day care and improve quality simultaneously, they say.

States should also coordinate policies and planning among the various agencies responsible for early education and care, the study advises, and set the same program standards for both community- and school-based settings.