Pre-K Decision-Making In New Orleans Public Schools: Incentives and Disincentives to Offering Pre-K In a Decentralized Environment

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Pre-K Decision-Making In New Orleans Public Schools: Incentives and Disincentives to Offering Pre-K In a Decentralized Environment

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2017

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In recent decades, several new governance approaches to public education have arisen that challenge the long-standing ideas of a traditional district model (NEPC, 2016). One such approach is the portfolio model, a model being applied increasingly in urban school districts around the country, though nowhere quite so comprehensively as in the city of New Orleans. However, one concern of a highly decentralized model like the one in New Orleans is that it may produce a deficit in the coordination of non-mandatory services. Public pre-kindergarten (pre-k) programming is an example of a highly effective, but non-mandatory service. The benefits of pre-k range from increased kindergarten readiness and continued educational attainment to decreased rates of delinquency and higher earnings later in life (Currie, 2001 & Yoshikawa, 1995). While early learning has proven to be highly beneficial, especially for low-income students, it is also very costly (Magnuson, 2010). In the 2013-14 school year, it was estimated that the per-child funding gap to offer a pre-k program in Louisiana was over $3,600 (Weixler et al., 2017). Given these positive impacts on society, and for the participants themselves, more and more districts are investing in and expanding upon their pre-k offerings. As an optional service, however, the financial burden of running pre-k programs might make schools in a highly decentralized environment less inclined to offer pre-k programs. Recent research on New Orleans in the ten years since Hurricane Katrina finds that the availability of school-based pre-k seats has dropped, even as kindergarten seats have continued to rise relative to the rest of Louisiana (Weixler et al., 2017). This drop in school-based New Orleans pre-k seats is inconsistent with trends throughout the rest of the state, as well as nationwide, where public pre-k seats are remaining constant, or increasing (NIEER, 2015). Given the positive effects of pre-k and the issues involved in providing this service in a portfolio district, it is critically important to understand who chooses to offer these pre-k programs, and why, as well as what mechanisms may be dis-incentivizing others from offering these same services, and how policymakers may go about making public pre-k an increasingly attractive option for the city’s schools.

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Gerry, Alica. (2017). Pre-K Decision-Making In New Orleans Public Schools: Incentives and Disincentives to Offering Pre-K In a Decentralized Environment. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/198155.

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