How are we doing?
With 39.0% of three- to four-year-olds enrolled in an early education program, Tucson landed near the bottom in 2016, among the 12 comparison Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Denver ranked first among the MSAs, with 53.4%, and Las Vegas last with 32.5% of three- to four-year-olds enrolled. Furthermore, 92.1% of school-age children in Tucson attended public institutions, which is consistent with the state of Arizona and the nation. Of all public schools in Arizona, 30.0% were charter schools, which was considerably higher than the U.S. rate of 7.0%.
Why is it important?
A multitude of options exist for a child’s educational experience, including public, private, and charter schools, as well as early education. The enrollment rate for early education programs has been on the rise. Research has shown that children who attend a high-quality early education program enter kindergarten with enhanced pre-reading and basic math skills, stronger vocabulary, and better socialization skills. Enrollment rates in early education programs vary widely across socioeconomic groups, as do public vs. private school attendance rates. Charter schools have seen a significant rise in popularity in the last two decades.
How do we compare?
The Tucson MSA, Arizona, and the U.S. all have similar K-12 attendance rates for public versus private schools. In 2016, of the school-age children attending school in the U.S., 89.8% attended public schools while 10.2% attended private schools. The public school attendance rate was slightly higher for Tucson (92.1%) and Arizona (93.2%).
Charter schools are a relatively new option in education. The first charter school in the U.S. opened in 1992. Since then, charter schools have increased in popularity, with 42 states currently permitting their formation. Charter schools are independently run public schools that operate outside of the regulations imposed upon school districts. Charter schools are accountable to their individual charter, which is provided by the state, county, or district. In 2014, Arizona surpassed all 10 western states, with charter schools accounting for 30% of all public schools. California, Colorado, and New Mexico tied for a distant second with 11%. Charter schools accounted for only 5.0% of Nevada’s public schools. Washington State’s first charter school opened in the fall of 2014 but data are not yet available.
How is it measured?
The percentage of three- to four-year-olds enrolled in an early education program, and public/private school data, are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a nationwide rolling sample survey that produces one-year and five-year estimates on demographic, social, housing, and economic measures. All data provided on early education and private/public school attendance utilized five-year estimates. State Charter school data comes from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) 2014 Health of the Movement Report. National data comes from the NAPCS dashboard.