NBC “Education Nation” Perpetuates Preschool Access Myth

On the Today show as part of NBC’s Education Nation Matt Lauer said that 75 percent of four year olds do not have access to preschool. Except THEY DO:

The Pew Charitable Trust offers the statistic that “More than 75 percent of the nation’s four-year-olds and an even larger percentage of 3-year-olds still have no access to state-funded pre-k programs.” What is lost in translation is the state-funded pre-k qualifier.

According the 2007 National Household Education Survey (NHES), total enrollment in a public or private program the year prior to kindergartenat age 4 is about 74 percent. This figure is reported in “The State of Preschool 2009” which is funded by PEW and published by the National Institute for Early Education Research. In addition, this number is close to the report by Census and National Center for Education Statistics. What the Pew figure is quoting is the percentage of children in state-funded public preschool which is at 25 percent. This does not count any children enrolled in Head Start which puts children in government programs at 40 percent. This also does not count children in state subsidized programs through welfare to work or any children that go to preschool at the YMCA or local church or Boys and Girls club. The more accurate statement is that 75 percent of children do not go to state-funded public preschools in public schools. The NIEER preschool yearbook with the correct figures is here:

Close to 75 percent of children go to either a private or a public program at 4 years old.

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.