An annual report by the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University (NIEER) ranks South Carolina 11th in access to and 40th in state funding for 4K programs. The State of Preschool 2014 is based on data from the 2013-2014 school year and includes the $26 million funding expansion enacted by the state legislature in 2013.
The report does not include a second expansion of 4K enacted by the state legislature for the current school year (2014-2015). Recent expansions of 4K in South Carolina have resulted in 26 additional school districts becoming eligible to offer full-day 4K since 2012.
State funding for 4K programs began in South Carolina in 1984 with the Half-Day Child Development Program codified by the South Carolina Education Improvement Act (EIA). The EIA program sought to improve school readiness in at-risk four-year-olds through school-district-based 4K. Each school district is required to have at least one 4K classroom.
A second program was created in 2006 making state funding available for full-day 4K in the Abbeville County School District et al. vs. SC Plaintiff districts and any other school districts with a 90 percent poverty index. Under the Read to Succeed legislation passed in 2014, the pilot program was made permanent and named the Child Early Reading Development and Education (CDEP) program. The legislation also expanded CDEP to include districts with a 70 percent poverty index or above.
In a report issued by the Education Oversight Committee (EOC) on the CDEP program in January 2015, there are approximately 42,000 four-year-olds living in poverty in South Carolina, and about 19,200 (46%) are enrolled in a publicly funded 4K program. The report also shows modest academic gains over time of those at-risk four-year-olds enrolled in CDEP 4K when compared to the academic performance of those children not enrolled in a four-year-old program.
Expansion in funding and access to 4K is also a national trend according to the NIEER survey. In 2013-2014, state funding for pre-k increased by nearly $120 million after adjusting for inflation. Not only are states increasing funding, but more children are enrolling in pre-k and the quality of those facilities, based on NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for quality standards, is increasing as well.
South Carolina’s full-day 4K program met seven of the 10 quality benchmarks, falling short on the following:
- Teacher degree (BA not required in nonpublic classrooms)
- Assistant teacher degree (Child Development Associate credential or equivalent is required within 12 months of hire, and districts can request waivers)
- Monitoring (reductions in staff as of 2013-2014 school year do not allow for program review unless requested)
Read the NIEER report here.
Read the EOC report on CDEP here.
 Head Start, ABC Child Care Voucher System, CDEP 4K program in a public or private center.