NEWS RELEASES 2009-10 :: MAY 4, 2010


For the second year in a row, North Carolina is one of only two states to meet all 10 quality standards benchmarks for preschool education according to The State of Preschool 2009 published by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). For the fifth consecutive year, the report ranked the state in the nation's top 10 for state preschool education. According to the publication, North Carolina also ranked 11th in the nation on state funding spent per child enrolled in pre-k and 17th on percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled.

The report ranks all states for the 2008-09 school year on enrollment in state-funded preschool programs, the amount states spent per child, and how many of NIEER's 10 quality benchmarks a state met. These benchmarks including early learning standards, teacher degrees, teacher specialized training, assistant teacher degrees, continuing professional development requirements, maximum class size, staff-child ratios, screening, referral and support services, meals and monitoring procedures.

"North Carolina is proud and fortunate to be home to one of the nation's top academic pre-k programs," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "More at Four serves nearly 32,000 at-risk 4-year-olds each year, giving them the opportunity to make substantial gains across key school readiness indicators, including language and literacy, math, general knowledge and social skills."

This year, Atkinson established an Office of Early Learning at the NCDPI to help ensure a seamless system of public education from pre-kindergarten through the third grade.

"Research proves that a high-quality, integrated educational experience throughout the pre-k to grade three continuum of learning provides the foundation to help ensure that all of North Carolina's children will be successful in school and graduate," Atkinson said.

According to the report, states across the nation are currently cutting back on early education programs. The report showed that the average amount states spent per child, when adjusted for inflation, declined from $4,179 to $4,143 in 2009, ending an upward trend. Real spending per child declined in 24 of 38 states with programs. North Carolina spent $5,414 in state funds per child enrolled in pre-k in 2008-09.

The report also shows that total enrollment in and spending on pre-k education increased, but not in every state. In nine states the percentage of children enrolled actually declined, and 12 states provide no state pre-k programs. Total pre-k enrollment increased nationally last year by more than 81,000. More than 1.2 million children attended state-funded preschool, 1 million at age 4. In addition, total funding for state pre-k rose to more than $5 billion for a state funding increase of $446 million, which is about half the increase of the previous year.

More at Four pre-kindergarten programs operate in all 100 counties in North Carolina through public schools, private child care and Head Start agencies. The NCDPI's Office of Early Learning coordinates all state and federal funding for all pre-k initiatives including Title I, Preschool Exceptional Children (IDEA), Even Start and Head Start. For more information about the Office of Early Learning and More at Four, visit or contact the NCDPI's Communications division at 919.807.3450.

The National Institute for Early Education Research is a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. The organization supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research. NIEER is supported through grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and others. For more information, visit

North Carolina Pre-K Summary
(pdf, 153kb)

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.