Several states with high percentages of rural students are among the 18 winners of federal grants administered by the U.S. Department of Education and Health and Human Services to help states develop or expand preschool programs.
Alabama and Montana, where more than 43 percent of children attend rural schools, each received a development grant to launch or expand new preschool programs. Although Alabama’s preschool program has been rated highly by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), it serves only 6 percent of 4-year-olds. Montana has not previously offered state-funded preschool, but according to The Billings Gazette, the state will use its $40 million grant over the next four years to launch a program and “expand access for children in high-needs and tribal communities.”
Vermont, which is a previous recipient of federal early learning funding, was one of six states that received a grant to expand its existing program. Nearly 59 percent of students in Vermont attend rural schools and its current preschool program serves 71 percent of 4-year-olds, according to NIEER. Arkansas and Maine, where respectively about 45 and 62 percent of students are rural, each received funding for the first time to expand preschool programs.
A report released earlier this year found that children in several of the most rural states lack access to state-funded preschool programs. During the 2012-13 school year, 10 states did not offer a preschool program for 3- or 4-year-olds. Eight of those states serve more than 25 percent of students in rural schools.
Some rural states that applied for preschool grants did not receive funding this year. Mississippi, which launched a small state-funded preschool program in 2013, was denied funding for the third time. Kentucky and South Carolina were also denied funding.
For more, check out my colleague Christina Samuels’ post here.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.