Kansas on 'Worst Chance' List for Quality Pre-K Programs

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According to a new report, parents have the worst chance of finding high-quality, state-funded pre-kindergarten programs in kansas than in most other states in the nation.

Pre-K Now released two new lists Wednesday identifying states where parents have the best chance of enrolling their child in a quality, state-funded pre-k program, and the five states where chances are the worst. Pre-K Now excluded 12 states that do not offer state-funded pre-k programs, leaving 38 to be ranked.

Among the best are: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois and Tennessee. On the worst list are: Arizona, Ohio, Kansas, Nevada and Colorado.

Also in the report, Governor Sebelius and state legislators were praised for their bipartison work to increase funding for early education programs.

Unfortunately, Kansas just isn't growing as quickly as some of the other states.

But Dr. Gayle Stuber, Early Childhood Coordinator for the Kansas State Department of Education, says the numbers used for this study are from the 2006-2007 year and she has implemented changes since then. She says those changes will show that Kansas meets many of the national standards.

"As a parent of a young child, it's very disturbing," said Patrick Woods, who is a USD 501 board member and father of a two-year-old. "What we know about brain development tells us that this is the best tool we have to eliminate the achievement gap."

Dr. Tina Thompson, Director of Early Childhood Education at Topeka Public Schools, agrees. "We know so much more about the brain than we did even 10 years ago and not to take advantage of that opportunity," Thompson said. "I think that we are just not doing our job as educators if we miss those opportunities when children are ready to learn."

Dr. Thompson and Woods also agree the importance of getting more funding for these programs isn't just to prepare kids for kindergarten, it's preparation for life.

"It's much bigger than just academic achievement," said Woods. "You're talking health - social and emotional health as well as physical health - academic achievement, potential earnings, all of those things that can greatly impact a child's life and the community."

"Prenatal care is just as important as what happens after a child is born," said Dr. Thompson. "It really can determine a child's future."

In August, the Topeka Public Board of Education voted to support the recommendations of the 2013 group. From that committee they made several recommendations for expanding early childhood programs in TPS.

Dr. Thompson has been asked by USD 501 superintendent, Dr. Kevin Singer, to put together a budget for expansion of early childhood programs. She is currently working on the project.

The report did have positive things to report about the future of Kansas pre-k education programs, including the Four-Year-Old At-Risk Program and the Pre-K Pilot.

"The good thing is our legislature, under the leadership of the governor, actually took big steps this year for the first time and actually dedicated a significant amount of money to early childhood education," said Woods.

Read Pre-K Now's state profile on Kansas

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