The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 14, 2014

Oklahoma remains a leader in pre-K

NORMAN — For several years, Oklahoma has been recognized as a national leader in state-funded pre-K programs. Norman schools were among the first to offer programs for 4-year-olds.

Now, statewide, about 76 percent of eligible 4-year-olds attend pre-K classes.

Nearly all of the state’s 520 school districts offer the programs — some through partnerships with local child care centers and church programs.

Nearby states don’t have nearly the rate of participation offered in Oklahoma. Arkansas counts about 33 percent of its eligible students in pre-K, and Colorado has 21 percent.

The number is 21 percent in Kansas and 52 percent in Texas. No state requires preschoolers to attend school.

Pre-k has been embraced by the state’s business leaders. It’s one area where Oklahoma has shown national leadership. Not so for other areas of education.

May is always crunch time for lawmakers as education budgets for the 2014-2015 school year are being scrutinized.

Norman Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano told a chamber board meeting Monday that Oklahoma schools have been dealt a $200 million budget hole since 2008.

Norman’s share of that amounts to about $6 million. All of this comes as schools are dealing with increased enrollment and more state mandates.

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