The curious case of Oklahoma : a historical analysis of the passage of universal pre-kindergarten legislation in Oklahoma




Bell, Christian Marie

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State-funded voluntary pre-K programs have grown steadily over the past decade and now enroll 1.3 million children (Barnett, Carolan, Fitzgerald, J., & Squires, 2012). While the overall trend has been to increase participation in state funded Pre-K, access in most states is targeted to select groups of at-risk 4-year-olds. Unfortunately, targeted programs for disadvantaged children tend to underserve their targeted populations with respect to availability and quality (Gelbach & Pritchett, 2002). In light of this, Pre-K advocates have begun pushing for universal Pre-K. However, only six states offer universal-prekindergarten, and with varying degrees of success. In this environment of modest state funding for Pre-K, the state of Oklahoma has managed to rise to the forefront of the universal Pre-K movement. That a high-quality Pre-K system exists in a conservative state is a very curious case and provides an opportunity for a thorough examination of the political processes. This study seeks not only to explain the development and passage of universal Pre-K in Oklahoma, but to also understand what lessons can be taken from a historical analysis of this issue for contemporary education policy.



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