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Pre-K Enrollment Down, Especially Low In Northwest

Seth Wenig
AP Photo
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 photo, Bryson Payne, 4, left, and his teacher Jacqualine Sanchez, center, play with pretend food in a pre-kindergarten class at the Sheltering Arms Learning Center in New York.

The number of preschoolers enrolled in state-funded early childhood education programs is dropping nationally. A national study released Tuesday shows that Northwest states are holding steady in terms of overall enrollment but continue to rank near the bottom in some key areas.

The study from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University has good things to say about the quality of state-funded pre-kindergarten education in Oregon and Washington. But it shows the number of children receiving this publicly funded opportunity is on the low end.

Oregon and Washington are well below the national average when it comes to the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in a state-funded preschool program.

Donna Schnitker, president of the Oregon Head Start Association, says in some parts of the state, “There are waiting lists for kids that are eligible for Head Start, but there is just not the funding."

The situation is a little different in Oregon and Washington's neighbor to the east. The study points out that Idaho is one of 10 states nationally that doesn't offer state funding for pre-kindergarten programs at all.

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.