RALEIGH – Make no mistake, quality pre-kindergarten matters to higher education – it has implications for third-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math1 and placing students on a trajectory that leads to a degree and a well-paying job.
After launching its NC Pre-K program in 2001, North Carolina grew enrollment to 22% of its 4-year-olds over the next seven years. It has remained at roughly that level ever since, ranking 26th last year out of 44 states and the District of Columbia that offer pre-kindergarten.
Some states have far-reaching pre-kindergarten programs – 10 states enroll more than 50% of their 4-year-olds, and Florida’s enrollment surpasses 77%.2
As part of a panel discussion at the NC Chamber’s Conference on Education last year, Jim Hansen, Regional President of PNC Bank, said high-quality pre-K increases a child’s literacy development by six to eight months – a significant advantage for a 4-year-old.
Hansen noted that U.S. News & World Report ranked North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program No. 1 in the nation in quality – yet 41st in enrollment.
“We have the quality, but we’re not providing the access,” he said.3
At this year’s conference, Venessa Harrison, President of AT&T North Carolina, said a group of CEOs recommended last year that North Carolina expand access to high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten – and state legislators listened.
“In its 2017-19 budget, the General Assembly for the first time since 2010 made significant increases in funding for Pre-K,” Harrison said. “Roughly half of the children eligible for the program will be able to participate in it. That is a lot of progress. But we still have a long way to go.”