2016 State of Preschool Yearbook by NIEER
In May 2017, the latest annual report, "2016 State of Preschool Yearbook" by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) was released. This report has been a regular release for over a decade. It sets benchmarks to measure each state's progress in their publicly funded, often referred to as "prek for all" programs. This year, NIEER updated the benchmarks for the first time to include a better measurement of quality of the programs.
Why does this matter to you? Well, it depends who you are.
- Parents: Depending on the state have an option for free preschool. Is it a quality program? Is it only for families with low income? What age? Is it full day? How might it compare to a private program? Is public preschool better than no preschool at all?
- Private Providers: Does your state provide full day options? How does your care differ from the state's care? Know it so you can tell parents. Does your state have a choice option so that they fund private programs with public dollars? Read the report and understand how prek for all adds to or detracts from your business so you can create a solution.
- CACFP Sponsors or dieticians: Are the schools participating on the food program? Are they feeding the children the school lunch meals that very well could be serving sizes that are not appropriate for young children? Could they schools use some education and motivation to service the prek children different foods or serving sizes?
PreK for All - Is it good? Is it bad?
I don't have an answer for you. What we do know is that prek and quality care in the early years has been proven to make a difference in outcomes for adult lives, especially those raised in families with low income. Research such as the Perry Preschool Study and the Heckman Equation are just two that are often referred to as advocates move from local to state to federal governments to change policy and get funding for such programs. Preschool for all IS a necessity, it's just the HOW that is controversial.
This report will give you some footing to begin establishing your opinion. Read the whole thing or just your state's fact sheet. And then take action. Make it better, consider being part of it or just understand how to tell parents how your program offers better or different things when they talk to you. Knowledge is power. Take a look.