Early Childhood

The Nation Sees a Drop in Latino Preschool Enrollment

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 08, 2011 1 min read
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The proportion of Latino 4-year-olds enrolling in preschool grew dramatically through the 1990s and up until 2005, but it declined between 2005 and 2009, a study released today by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, shows. Meanwhile, the proportion of African-American 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool caught up with that of whites in the 1990s and maintained parity from 2005 to 2009.

Consistently over all this time, Latinos have been less likely than blacks or whites to be enrolled in preschool. I write about the study and possible reasons for low rates of preschool enrollment for Latinos in an article published today by edweek.org.

I received a couple of comments on the study after I had filed my story, which I’ll share with you here.

Barbara T. Bowman, who was a pioneer in promoting the value of preschool in this country and who oversees the office of early childhood education for Chicago Public Schools, said in an email that Chicago hasn’t seen a decrease in enrollment of Latinos in public preschools. “We have opened a number of new classrooms in the Latino community and still have waiting lists in some areas because of a shortage of space in schools.” She said about 40 percent of the population in Chicago’s public preschools is Latino.

You may recall that Chicago’s school system is trying to meet the challenge of providing bilingual education in its preschools, an effort that was required for the first time this school year by Illinois state law.

Hiro Yoshikawa, a professor of education at Harvard University, wrote to me by email that his research shows that lower-income Latino immigrant parents experience barriers to getting information about high-quality child care and preschool programs. He added that some mothers and fathers also have fears about contacting formal institutions.

Yoshikawa observed that Mexican-American preschoolers have a very low rate of preschool enrollment in the United States, while the rate of enrollment for preschoolers in the country of origin of their families is very high. He said enrollment of 4-year-olds in preschool in Mexico is more than 80 percent in part because a national law in Mexico makes preschool universally available.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.