On March 19, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) held a press conference to release its annual survey, "The State of Preschool 2007." The report presents an analysis of which states funded their early childhood education initiatives sufficiently to meet the NIEER quality benchmarks. The survey also ranks all 50 states on the percentage of children served by early childhood education programs and spending per child on early education. The report ranks Oklahoma as the number one state for pre-kindergarten access for children.
According to Steve Barnett, NIEER director, research shows that high-quality, preschool education improves high school graduation rates, college attendance and employment opportunities; increases productivity and wages; and lessens crime and delinquency. Barnett noted, "Few other investments can match the rate of return like early education investments. The return to the individual is $17 for each $1 invested." He further noted that the 2007 report shows more positive news than negative. Barnett stated that for the first time since NIEER began collecting data almost six years ago, spending per child has increased. The report also shows an increase in enrollment in early education programs to more than one million children across the country. The bad news is that there is "tremendous disparity across the states." State spending per child varies, the degree requirements for teachers range from a bachelor's degree to little more than a high school diploma, the maximum class sizes and staff-to-child ratios vary greatly and a dozen states still do not provide state funded preschool education to any of its children.
Sara Watson from Pew Charitable Trust, also spoke about the new report and stated, "Failing to provide early education programs for children compromises their ability to succeed in school and life."