- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) — The South, which has lagged for decades in most areas of education, is leading the country in early childhood education enrollment and quality, according to a report released Thursday by the Southern Education Foundation.

According to the report, 19 percent of the region’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-kindergarten. That number compares to 12 percent in the Northeast, 9 percent in the Midwest and 5.6 percent in the West.

The foundation’s report analyzed several independent studies done in the South over the past decade of state-supported pre-K programs, shown to be critical in shaping a child’s future. Though the report acknowledges that there are different benchmarks for measuring quality pre-K programs, it found that all six states requiring full-day pre-K programs are in the South and that nine Southern states fund pre-K above the national average cost per child.

“Pre-K is a long-term, essential strategy for closing the gap on the quality of life between the South and the rest of the country, said Steve Suitts, program coordinator for the Southern Education Foundation and one of the authors of the study.

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