The personal finance website WalletHub has determined that Virginia’s pre-K education system ranks 27th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The website notes that while good elementary schools, high schools, and colleges are important factors for parents to consider when choosing where to settle down, the availability of quality pre-K education is just as crucial. Unfortunately, pre-school enrollment dropped by 12% for 3-year-olds and 17% for 4-year-olds during the COVID-19 pandemic. As in-person programs reopen this fall, though, parents should have a lot of choices.
According to WalletHub, a study by the National Institute for Early Education Research has shown that students enrolled in full-day pre-K programs do better on math and literacy tests than their peers who attend only partial day preschool. In addition, those who attend pre-K programs have been shown to have less risk of future crime than those who do not. Plus, early education programs may generate billions of dollars for the economy over a few decades, as they lessen the need for social services and create more productive citizens.
To help parents find the states with the best early education systems, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: “Access,” “Quality” and “Resources & Economic Support.” The website then evaluated the dimensions using 12 key metrics and determined each state’s and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate each overall score. The resulting scores were then used to rank each state and D.C.
The metrics used in the “Access” dimension were the share of a state’s school district that offer state pre-K programs, the share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K programs, the share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K, pre-K special education, and Head Start, and the presence of waiting lists or frozen intake for child care assistance.
The metrics used in the “Quality” dimension were the pre-K quality benchmarks met with the following benchmarks considered: (1) early learning and development standards (2) curriculum supports (3) teachers has BA (4) specialized training in pre-K (5) assistant teacher has CDA or equivalent (6) staff professional development (7) class size 20 or lower (8) staff-child ratio :10 or better (9) vision, hearing, and health screening and referral (10) continuous quality improvement system; income requirement for state pre-K eligibility; requirement of school safety plan and audits.
The metrics used in the “Resources and Economic Support” dimension were total reported spending per child enrolled in preschool; the change in state spending per child enrolled in preschools (2018-29 to 2019-20); the total state Head Start Program spending per child enrolled in preschool; and the monthly child care co-payment fees as a share of the family income.