Report shows how South Dakota provides preschool services

(The Center Square) – South Dakota is one of six states that does not offer a state-funded preschool program as enrollment remains below pre-pandemic levels across the nation, according to a report.

The National Institute for Early Education Research’s 2022 State of Preschool Yearbook report looks at the 2021-2022 school year. The institute is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

South Dakota does not offer free public education for children starting at age three. The South Dakota Department of Education supports school districts that want to provide early childhood education services in several ways, DOE Deputy Secretary Mary Stadick Smith told The Center Square.

“For example, districts may use their Title 1 funds to support their early childhood programs and have access to various resources to assist with establishing a developmentally appropriate setting,” Smith said. “Most recently, the DOE in collaboration with the Department of Social Services (Child Care Services), conducted a survey to study preschool opportunities for children in South Dakota. The survey is part of a larger study that is still underway.”

The state has established early learning guidelines, according to the NIEER report.

“Most recently, the state created a Content Standards Crosswalk to serve as a resource to support the learning environment for preschool-age children transitioning into kindergarten,” the report said. “This crosswalk is being distributed across the state to early childhood educators with local education agencies and public/private preschool homes and/or centers. Like the Early Learning Guidelines, this work was a collaboration between the South Dakota Department of Education, Head Start Collaboration Office, and multiple stakeholders.”

States spent almost $10 billion on preschool, including more than $393 million in COVID-19 relief, according to the report. But that’s not enough, researchers said.

“The nation has far to go to provide quality programs, and progress has been uneven. Real state spending per child is unchanged after 20 years. It remains well below what is required to fund a full-day preschool program of the quality required to meet the needs of young children for learning and development,” the report said.