One strategy to encourage participation in early childhood educational opportunities for at-risk student populations has been through the provision of free state-funded pre-k programs. Yet, the provision of these programs includes the assumption that the school district is providing programs in places where at-risk families can access them. This study considers how providing access to neighborhood resources in the form of free, public pre-k education may increase odds of enrollment in such programs. Given disparities which often exist in access to high quality programs, we estimate whether the provision of additional programs improves access and equity for all students, considering the characteristics of both families and neighborhoods. Finally, we consider whether shifting from an open enrollment policy, allowing families to choose any program where spaces are available, to a policy encouraging participation in neighborhood schools (zoning) is associated with opportunities to access high quality public pre-k for students.
Presented in Session 2. Children & Youth