NEW YORK (AP) — The number of 3- and 4-year-olds in state-funded classrooms rose slightly during the 2014-15 school year to almost 1.4 million, according to a national preschool report released Thursday.
The report from the National Institute for Early Education Research found a wide range in per-pupil spending and quality of programs, with New Jersey spending $12,149 for each child enrolled in pre-K compared with $2,304 in Florida and $1,981 in South Carolina.
Total enrollment in 2014-2015 increased by 37,167 from the previous year.
Enrollment in state-funded preschool dipped in several states, including Texas, Florida and Wisconsin.
"States announce that they're making some initiative and then the next year they take a couple of steps backward," said Steve Barnett, director of the early education institute, which is based at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "If states simply never went backward, the rates of progress would be much, much faster."
The institute, which advocates for early childhood education, is under contract with the National Center for Education Statistics to conduct an annual preschool survey.
The report tracks quality measures such as class sizes and teacher-training requirements. Several states including California, Florida and Texas do not require preschool teachers to have a college degree.
The report found that state funding for pre-K rose by $553 million overall in 2014-05, with New York accounting for two-thirds of the increase.
New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio promotes universal pre-K as his administration's signature achievement, is held up as a model in the report.
The authors say New York "provides an example of a city that successfully worked with its state to move an entire state forward, though it remains to be seen how much and how fast progress is extended to the rest of New York state."