Oklahoma – A Bright Spot in Early Childhood Education
What makes Oklahoma noteworthy:
Oklahoma provides relatively high access and high quality for Black and Latino 4-year-olds. The state’s preschool program serves just over 60% of its Black and Latino 4-year-olds. Oklahoma’s preschool program is available in 99% of the state’s school districts, is primarily full-day, and sometimes includes extended-day programming, enabling more meaningful access for working families.
Oklahoma’s high access for 4-year-olds reflects its history as the second state to offer free preschool to all 4-year-olds, which occurred in 1998 and is offered in 99% of the state’s school districts.
- A new law requiring ongoing, personalized staff professional development led to the state meeting an additional quality benchmark in the 2017-2018 school year, which brought its total quality benchmarks met to 9 out of 10.
- Public school early childhood programs may operate collaboratively with other early childhood programs such as Head Start, university lab schools, assisted living centers, YWCAs, and other community-based programs to provide classrooms when districts do not have available space (70 O.S. §1-114).
- In order to truly serve Black and Latino children and families equitably, Oklahoma must provide high-quality preschool for 3-year-olds.
- State leaders must also enact policies to eliminate preschool suspensions and expulsions, which disproportionately affect young children of color. The state’s new professional development policy provides a great opportunity to train staff in evidence-based, culturally competent practices to replace suspensions and expulsions.