NIEER Report on Each State's Pre-K Program Shows Texas Still Lagging Behind

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently released its annual report detailing funding, access, and quality of preschool programs across the country. The report shows that Texas will continue to be ranked last in pre-K quality despite the passage of the Governor’s pre-K bill, HB 4.

Though pre-K continues to be a focus across the nation, overall, states made minimal gains on enrollment and funding. While seven states did increase the number of quality standards met, half of the nation’s pre-K students are in programs meeting fewer than half of the quality benchmarks. These programs include the following six states:­ California, Ohio, and Vermont, which meet four benchmarks; Florida, which meets three benchmarks; and Texas, which meets only two benchmarks.

The Texas enrollment rate has held steady since the 2012-2013 school year, remaining at 52 percent of eligible children and mirroring the national trend for enrollment. Texas did exceed the national average for increased state spending per student, making an increase of $138.

While Texas had the highest total state preschool spending in 2013-2014, it meets the lowest number of quality standards in the country, as per the NIEER quality standards checklist.

Despite having the largest preschool program in the country, Texas meets only two of ten quality benchmarks: early learning standards and at least 15 hours per year of teacher in-service training. Other rankings for the state include the following:

  • 9th for 4-year-old access
  • 13th for 3-year-old access
  • 29th for state spending
  • 33rd for all reported spending

For more details on Texas pre-K, view the state’s profile.

We agree with the report’s findings that:

"Many states need to raise their quality standards for pre-K and implement policies to ensure continuous improvement. Without sufficient quality, programs will not fulfill their promise with respect to children’s learning and development or long-term economic returns. NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for quality standards are a starting place for state policy.”

This week the Governor signed his pre-K bill, HB 4. While we are pleased with the increase in pre-K funding, we had hopes that the bill would include more research-based quality standards. Under HB 4, Texas still meets only two of ten NIEER quality benchmarks. And the quality standards in the bill will not apply to all pre-K programs across the state, leaving Texas with a last place ranking among all states on quality standards.

Texans Care for Children will continue to advocate for raising the quality of pre-K as we move forward.

The executive summary and full report provide more detailed information and recommendations for strengthening preschool in the United States.