State preschool enrollment down, according to new report

Published 05/14 2014 05:32AM

Updated 05/14 2014 07:32AM

BAKERSFIELD, CA - A new report shows total preschool enrollment declined for the first time across the country during the 2012-2013 school year. The annual State of Preschool Report by the National Institute for Early Education Research blames funding cuts.

According to the report, 15% of four-year-olds in Xalifornia are enrolled in preschool.

State funding increased slightly last school year to $4,500 per child participating in state preschool, but that's almost 1,200 dollars less than in 2010.

Enrollment peaked in 2011 at 19%. Now it's down to 15%. This is the biggest drop in enrollment since the institute began tracking enrollment in 2002.

These statistics only reflect populations of state-run schools.

First 5 Kern executive director Ronald Maier says our county's numbers also have dropped and are on track with the state.

Maier said, "At 3%, that's about 9,000 students. It's the first time it's done that. It could be just a blip. Statistics show that every once in a while things just happen. It's not a significant number so I don't really think it's anything that we can panic about.

Maier says our county's unemployment rate could be affecting preschool enrollment. If parents are unemployed, they aren't eligible to enroll their children in state-run preschool.

Kern's most recent unemployment rate is 13.1% almost double the national rate and 5% higher than California's.

Maier says parents also are paying a new fee for part-time preschool.

The report indicates California meets four out of ten quality standards for pre-k education.

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