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Good marks for La. pre-K programs for 4-year-olds

3 years ago April 10, 2012 Apr 10, 2012 Tuesday, April 10 2012 Tuesday, April 10, 2012 6:23:22 AM CDT in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - A new report on state-funded pre-kindergarten programs around the nation gives good marks to three Louisiana programs for 4-year-olds.

The National Institute for Early Education Research released the report today.

The report lists 10 quality benchmarks for pre-K programs, including factors such as the education level of teachers and assistants, class sizes, learning standards and whether the children are served meals. One of the Louisiana programs hits all 10 benchmarks. Two others had scores of 8 and 9.

The report ranks the state 13th overall in terms of access for 4-year-olds - with 33 percent enrolled - and 14th in state spending.

And, with 12,739 enrolled in the 2010-2011 school year, enrollment of 4-year-olds had increased 21 percent since the 2001-2002 school year.

The report said state spending per child in the programs declined by $131 from 2009-2010 to the following year, part of a national trend noted in the report.

"Even as the nation begins to emerge from the economic downturn, few states are adding significantly to enrollment and the educational quality of state pre-K is taking a backseat to budget cutting, even though the number of students who need good preschool programs has risen," the report said.

The study outlines three Louisiana-funded preschool initiatives for 4-year-olds. Nationally, the study also looks at programs for 3-year-olds but Louisiana had no such programs, the report said.

One of Louisiana's programs is known as the 8g Student Enhancement Block Grant Program, aimed at children deemed at risk of not being ready for regular school.

Also outlined in the report is the Cecil J. Picard LA4 program, begun in 2001 and named for the late superintendent of education who was a strong advocate for such programs. Four-year-olds are eligible for the Picard program if they qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches.

The program that met all 10 quality benchmarks in the report was the Non-Public Schools Early Childhood Development Program, a voucher program begun in 2001. It provides tuition reimbursement to families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level to send their 4-year-olds to qualifying preschools.

"The state is aiming to provide voluntary preschool access for all 4-year-olds regardless of income by the 2013-2014 school year," the report noted.

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