Excerpt from introduction
Public education begins with kindergarten for most children, but an estimated 1 million prekindergarten children are also in public schools, and the number is increasing. As early as the 1993-94 school year, a U.S. Department of Education survey of all school districts found that 66 percent offered voluntary prekindergarten, including special education prekindergarten, general prekindergarten, and Head Start. In 1998-99, public schools reported using Title I funds for 260,000 prekindergarten children, in addition to preschoolers enrolled in Even Start, special education, and other public preschool classrooms. State governments are leading a trend toward public education for prekindergarten children. Responding to a Children's Defense Fund survey that defined prekindergarten as "focused primarily on education for three- and four-year-olds," 24 states reported funding prekindergarten initiatives in 1991-92. This number jumped to 42 states, serving approximately 725,000 children, in 1998-99. Of the 42 states, 24 states funded only their own prekindergarten programs, 14 funded their own programs and also supplemented Head Start, and 4 only supplemented Head Start.