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Pre-school enrollment dropped by nearly 300,000 students during the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts state the drop will erase a decade of progress and increased educational inequality.

The National Education Association says that children enrolled in early education programs are more likely to be academically prepared for future grades, as well as have higher graduation rates and higher earning potential than those who are not enrolled. They also declared that children who attend pre-K programs have been shown to have less risk of future crime than those who do not.

WalletHub compared 50 states and the District of Columbia across 12 key metrics, including share of school districts that offer a state pre-K program, number of pre-K quality benchmarks met and total reported spending per child enrolled in pre-K. The study found Indiana has the worst early education system in America.


Source: WalletHub

Quality of Early Education in Indiana (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 48th – Share of 3- and 4-year-olds Enrolled in pre-K, pre-K Special Education and Head Start
  • 46th – Total Reported Spending per Child Enrolled in Preschool
  • 35th – Monthly Child Care Co-Payment Fees as a Percent of Family Income
  • 42nd – Pre-K Program Growth
  • 25th – Change in State Spending per Child Enrolled in Preschool (2018-19 to 2019-20)

One estimate shows that every dollar invested in early education programs for disadvantaged families may generate $7.30 in economic benefits due to its impact on helping children grow up to be healthier, higher-earning adults.

The state that performed the best in the study was Arkansas.