Last week, the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative and Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) rolled out a major expansion to FEBP’s education database. For the first time, the site includes data on pre-K in states and school districts. In collecting the data, we found that states and districts face significant obstacles in collecting reliable, comparable pre-K data. But we also found that one state deserves a closer look for its organized state of information on funding and enrollment at the district level: Florida.
Most states–Florida is no exception–fund pre-K programs run by public schools as well as programs run by community-based organizations (CBOs), which are typically private non-profit or for-profit groups. The problem with this structure, from a data-gathering perspective, is that it is very difficult to collect data on how many children are in publicly funded pre-K programs within the boundaries of a school district. States tend to report data on district-run programs separately from data on CBOs, and data on enrollment in programs run by CBOs are likely to include children who live in different school districts. A new report that accompanied the release of the data, Counting Kids and Tracking Funds in Pre-K and Kindergarten: Falling Short at the Local Level,examines the plethora of issues preventing good data collection efforts and thus hindering good policy.
But it’s not all bad. In the course of collecting data and writing the report we discovered that Florida has found a way to track children enrolled and funding allocated to both district-run programs and CBOs within the structure of the school district.