Oklahoma Remains a National Leader in Pre-K Education
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 13, 2016) – On Thursday, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual State of Preschool 2015 report, which ranked Oklahoma fourth in the nation in preschool access for 4-year-olds. While Oklahoma maintained its ranking from the previous school year, the state fell from 26th to 28th in state funding.
Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, highlighted the importance of pre-k to Oklahoma’s schoolchildren.
“Oklahoma continues to distinguish itself as a national leader in early childhood education, even while doing more with less. But we have more work to do,” she said. “A parent is a child’s first, and most important, teacher. While we recognize that a nurturing home is every child’s first classroom, in a state with high poverty, access to early childhood education is crucial to shaping the future trajectory of all learners. We are committed to building on our established foundations in order to further positive outcomes for our youngest generation.”
Oklahoma began its Early Childhood Four-Year-Old Program in 1980. In 1998, due to its success, Oklahoma became the second state in the nation to provide free preschool for all 4-year-olds. Today, 99 percent of Oklahoma school districts offer access to the program. Districts receive program funding from the state’s school finance formula on a per-pupil rate, with additional resources allocated if a child is considered a dual language learner.
Bob Ross, President and CEO of Inasmuch Foundation and a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education, praised the report’s findings.
“I am pleased that Oklahoma continues to excel in state-by-state preschool access rankings,” he said. “It is increasingly important that every child in Oklahoma, especially those in low-income families, have access to high-quality pre-k. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. By investing in their future early, we are paving the way for our children’s success in school, on the job and in their communities.”
The NIEER report also found that while national enrollment in pre-k programs is on an upward trend, some of the largest states – including California, Florida and Texas – are falling behind in both enrollment and funding.
Debra Anderson, executive director of Smart Start Oklahoma, expressed pride in Oklahoma’s continued commitment to pre-k access.
“Oklahoma set the standard for the U.S. many years ago in implementing access for all children to a high-quality pre-k program,” she said. “We are proud that the state has sustained our commitment to high-quality early education for our 4-year-olds, and that we continue to rank in the top five in the country.”