SALT LAKE CITY — Utah ranks behind most of the country when it comes to providing education for pre-schoolers, according to the 2021 State of Preschool Yearbook Report from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
This report ranks pre-K programs based on a number of factors, but Utah met only three of ten quality standards.
Utah was one of the last states in the country to offer pre-K education, and "is near last in enrollment and how much it spends per child" according to Steve Barnett of the Institute.
According to the report, just over 2,000 students are enrolled in the program statewide, with just over $3,250 spent per student with only $832 coming from the state, as opposed to the $10,000 spent per student K-12.
He says that such a low allocation "doesn't buy a high quality education program, as any parent paying out-of-pocket knows."
"I think the most alarming shortcoming of the program standards is that teachers aren't required to have a four- year degree in specialization, specialized training in early childhood," Barnett added.
He stated that getting teachers more fully trained need not be an expensive fix for the state, given scholarship opportunities and loan forgiveness programs.
But Utah will face a financial burden in providing adequate salaries to recruit and retain quality teachers.
Barnett says that Utah could look to Alabama, Oklahoma, and Maine for guidance, as they lead the nation in pre-K programs.