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.