A new report found South Carolina saw significant increases in the number of children enrolled in state-funded preschool, but spends the least amount per-student of any state in the country nationwide.
The new report released Thursday by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University examined how each state operated public pre-K programs for three- and four-year-old students.
NIEER found more than 30,o0o students are enrolled in public programs across South Carolina the current school year– an increase of nearly 3,000 from 2014-15. However, the report also found South Carolina spent the least amount of money per-student of any state at just $1,981 each (New Jersey was the highest at more than $12,100).
South Carolina did increase its state spending in 2014-2015 by $9.6 million, adjusted for inflation. However this happened because state officials focused the money on full day CDEP programs at the expense of half-day EIA 4K ones.
“South Carolina’s economic future depends on early investment in our kids,” NIEER Director Steve Barnett said in a statement. “Ensuring that every child has access to high-quality preschool can help pave the way for their success in school, on the job, and in South Carolina communities. Children, their families, and the state depend on it.”
The Palmetto State has moved up in the rankings in recent years as legislators have expanded the programs, particularly for students in poor, rural counties. As a result, South Carolina 4K programs are growing at a faster clip than the national average. Enrollment in state-funded preschool dipped across several states, including Texas, Florida and Wisconsin.