Report finds that Pa. lags in early childhood education access and equity

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

A new report finds that Pennsylvania ranks 41st nationally in early childhood education, lagging behind New Jersey, Delaware, 37 other states, and the District of Columbia.

This week, the nonprofit Education Week Research Center released its annual Quality Counts report on state-by-state school performance for grades K-12. For the first time, the report also looked at preschool and kindergarten numbers, using information from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The reported awarded letter grades were based on preschool and kindergarten enrollment numbers and looked at how family income affected preschool attendance.

"There’s really kind of a data desert for this age group," said Holly Yettick, director of the Education Week Research Center, which puts out the report. "It’s sort of an area where policy is all over the place."

Without national policies or locked-in government funding for early childhood programs, "the private sector plays a much bigger role in that area," Yettick said.

Pennsylvania, which received a D-plus on the report’s Early Education Index, did worse than most states in providing equal access to preschool for high- and low-income families.

The state did better on other measures tracked by Education Week, finishing eighth overall nationally.

But here are some of the data behind the low ranking for early childhood efforts:

More than two-thirds of children from Pennsylvania families with yearly incomes above $100,000 are enrolled in quality early childhood education programs. For families making less than $20,000 a year, though, that number is only about one in five.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks