Oklahoma becomes leader in push for universal preschool

TULSA, Okla. -- New data from the National Institute for Early Education Research shows that historically conservative states are looking to make preschool more accessible.

That's because in Oklahoma, the average cost of childcare takes up 30 percent of a family's income. One midwife in Tulsa said these challenges start as soon as a baby is born.

"That's often something I'm dealing with, with new families. Juggling paying for child care versus going down to one income is a huge concern... and basically you have your second income only going to childcare," Sarah Tilford said.

Government funding makes preschool available in some districts, but advocates want this to be a universal option no matter where you live. With a two-year-old of her own, Tilford is already looking at alternate options for school.

"Oklahoma does have really flexible laws when it comes to homeschooling and things like that, and lots of good resources there... so that's probably more what we're looking at," she said.

In other families, relying on support from relatives is the only option to raise children without financial challenges.

"I don't know how people do that. It has to be so difficult," grandmother Susie Brown said.

Studies have shown that children who attend a high-quality preschool are more adjusted for the rest of their academic lives, and in adulthood have higher incomes and healthier lifestyles.

A report by congress this year shows less than half of the country's three and four-year-old's are enrolled in a pre-K program.

 

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