Lack of state-funded preschool leaves NH children lagging behind peers
Education experts say children in New Hampshire are at risk of falling behind their peers in other states with well-funded preschool programs.
Nearly half of 3- and 4-year-olds in New Hampshire are not receiving early education, which is known to provide foundational knowledge and skills used in school and later in life.
Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said research shows children who attend preschool are more likely to attend college, find professional success and are less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.
"We know that kids who miss out from low income families can start two or three years behind their peers," Barnett explained. "And they will rarely catch up."
Barnett acknowledged while individual school districts can opt to pay for preschool, a well-funded state program would help ensure all New Hampshire children get a chance to learn the fundamentals of math and language as well as develop the social-emotional skills they will carry into adulthood.
New Hampshire is one of just six states to not fund preschool, and Barnett pointed out it affects the economy as well. Thousands of Granite State parents report they frequently miss work or have had to quit their jobs due to the lack of affordable and accessible preschool. But where it is available, often staff is not.
Barnett added of more than 200 majors offered in college, early childhood education is one of the lowest paid.
"If we're serious about producing the kinds of benefits that preschool can, we need an adequate paid workforce," Barnett contended.
The Community College System of New Hampshire has created multiple scholarship and tuition assistance programs to help draw more people to the field of early education, but Barnett argued greater federal investments and a state commitment to universal preschool with adequately paid staff are needed to ensure kids get the best start on life.