Early Learning (Pre-K) Survey Analysis

Respondents say it’s really important and Idaho should provide public funding for preschool

Cameron Crow
Sep 29, 2019 · 13 min read

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Cam’s Main Takeaways

  1. The vast majority of survey respondents consider early learning really influential on a person’s opportunities later in life.
  2. Though most realized that Idaho doesn’t provide public funding for preschool (one of only four states), most didn’t know that Idaho’s leaving federal money on the table by not providing it.
  3. It’s not just Democrats that want public funding for preschool. The majority of our Republican and Independent respondents want it too.

Table of Contents

  • How Analysis Posts Work
  • Early Learning (Pre-K) Survey
  • Sample Demographics
  • Is Pre-K important?
  • Know that Idaho doesn’t fund it?
  • Should Idaho fund it?
  • Reasons not to attend?
  • Kinds of Pre-K kids attend?
  • What do parents do with their kids daily?
  • What’s important for being ready for kindergarten?
  • Who do you trust for info?
  • What do parents need or want?
  • What about libraries?
  • Don’t buy it? Make it better.

How Analysis Posts Work

In our analysis, we take a deeper look at our survey results and highlight the patterns and insights we see under the surface using segmentation across meaningful demographics (like age, gender, and location). These are the things we think are interesting, and we make them public so everyone can learn.

But the views and insights you find here aren’t the only ones available! You may see a chart or interpretation and realize you’re dying to see a different angle — one that might be more helpful for your purposes. Cool! We can help you with custom views or services. Send us an email!

Early Learning (Pre-K) Survey

Idaho wants a vibrant future that’s full of opportunities for its residents. Education is one of the biggest ways we create that future, and early learning is a piece of that puzzle. What do Idahoans think about it?

Here are our survey questions and results, and below’s what I found most interesting.

Sample demographics

Whenever you look at survey results or findings, it’s a good idea to check the demographics of the respondents — that can have a lot to do with whether the results are likely to reflect a broad population, or just a niche group. This survey was distributed to our subscribers via email, through Facebook via targeted ads, and was shared by subscribers as well.

Of our 432 responses, most were from women, parents, and youngish adults. Politically, we were pretty spread out but had a few more Democrats. Geographically, we heard most from Southwest and Southeast Idaho.

(One other thing to keep in mind — this is an opt-in survey, which means respondents decided whether or not they wanted to participate. I expect participants are more interested in this topic than others, so our results may not represent the views of an “average” Idahoan.)

How influential is Pre-K?

Before we dive into details, let’s put this topic in perspective — how influential is it? Do people think it has a big impact on peoples’ lives?

Overall, our respondents resoundingly answered Yes, with >80% answering that it’s “Extremely” or “Very” influential. Only about 5% answered “Not so influential” or “Not at all”.

This is interesting on its own, but what would be more useful is looking at how different types of people answered this question to see if we can find any patterns. For instance, what do people with kids think, compared to people without kids?

It turns out whether you have kids or not didn’t change the proportions of how people answered this question much at all. I think we can say that our parents and non-parents largely see this subject the same way.

But what about politics? Most of the time Republicans want less government spending and public services than Democrats, so I wonder if they think about Pre-K differently. Based on the above chart on the right, it looks like the answer is both yes and no. Yes, there are lower proportions of Republicans that said “Extremely influential” than Democrats, BUT… it’s still the plurality of them that answered that way. “Neither” party people (Independents) were in between.

What about regions? Do we think that different parts of Idaho see this differently than other parts?

Though the proportions of each region that answered “Extremely influential” isn’t exactly the same, respondents chose that option more than any other. The outlier seems to be “Upper Snake,” and that made me want to see if we had a higher proportion of Republican respondents from that region. Yup, we did. But, most regions’ distributions match the overall breakdown pretty well.

Know that Idaho doesn’t fund it?

Now that we know most of our respondents think early learning is really influential, I wanted to know whether they realize that Idaho doesn’t fund preschool, and that we’re leaving federal money on the table.

Overall, most respondents knew that Idaho doesn’t provide public funding for preschool. However, most respondents didn’t know that Idaho leaves federal money on the table.

That’s about what I expected. But let’s slice this in a few directions and see if we can find anything else. Let’s start with parents, again.

There was remarkably little difference between the respondents that have kids and those that don’t. That’s not quite what I expected — I’d think that parents would be more in the know about these things. Now, what about partisanship?

Ok, this is more interesting — there’s some bigger differences here. The Democrats we heard from were more aware about this situation than Republicans. I wonder why that is.

Should Idaho fund it?

Now that everyone’s on the same page about the fact that Idaho doesn’t fund preschool, and that we’re leaving federal money on the table, I wanted to know whether people think preschool should be funded.

Overall, about 80% said Yes, with most of those saying “Yes, absolutely.” About 15% said No. And when asked if they’d be willing to pay more in taxes to provide funding for preschool, we still had most answering in the affirmative (70%), but people were a bit less enthusiastic about that.

And what about by partisanship? These are the questions where I’d expect to see the biggest differences between Democrats and Republicans.

Yes, it’s true that Democrats and Republicans aren’t as close together on these questions as the previous ones. However, the majority of respondents from each group thought Idaho should provide public funding for preschools: 95% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 60% of Republicans. Wow!

But, there were bigger differences in respondents’ willingness to pay extra in taxes to make it happen. For instance, 50% of Republicans said they would pay more, compared to 90% of Democrats. Still… I didn’t expect Rs to be this amenable to the idea.

Reasons not to attend?

Now we’re going to transition into some more targeted questions — ones that only parents of children aged 8 or younger were asked. (Since most of them would be pretty irrelevant for other folks…)

We asked parents whether they were planning to send their kids to preschool. If they weren’t, we asked what their rationale is.

What I found most interesting from this result was how few people chose “Cost,” only about 20%. If Idaho had publicly-funded preschool, we’d hope that many families that currently can’t afford it would be able to enroll. Seems like that doesn’t necessarily apply to most of our respondents. (However, even the parents that can afford it today would probably really appreciate some financial relief…)

There were also a lot of people that answered “Other.” It looks like most of them are parents with kids that are too old for preschool now, so… obviously they’re not planning to send them to preschool in the future. Doh! 🤦‍♂️ (Survey design mistake.)

Kinds of Pre-K kids attend?

If parents did have children in preschool right now, we wanted to know what kind. That’s helpful because there are multiple options, and not everyone thinks about it the same way…

The majority are in a “Preschool with a curriculum” (55%), and the next most common option was “Child care with a preschool program” (20%). But, to the point about people having different definitions of “preschool,” you can see that we had respondents selecting things like “Child Care only” and “Family, friends, or neighbors’ home,” which many might not include in a standard definition. And of the 10% that answered “Other,” it looks like the most common write-in was Montessori.

What do parents do with their kids daily?

Okay, now let’s look at the types of activities that parents do with their children, whether they do preschool or not. As important as classroom time can be, the types of things parents do with their children can have a huge impact as well…

Overall, the most common activities were “Read books out loud” (92%), “Enforced rules/discipline” (88%), and “Play or walk outside” (88%). The least common daily activity was “Play games on a phone or computer” (33%).

My main takeaway from this is: no way. I don’t believe it.

I think either (A) people aren’t really telling the truth, or (B) they are telling the truth, and we’re hearing from a really abnormally-involved group of parents. I think it’s probably a little bit of both. That said, I think we need to be pretty careful about reading too much into the answers of this sample of parents. I’ve got a feeling this isn’t how “most parents” would answer. (✅ Make Caveat)

It’s pretty interesting to know what most of our parents with kids 8 or younger do, but I’m particularly interested in “Pre-K aged families” (with kids aged 5 or younger), and whether families that are planning to do preschool answered differently than those that don’t plan to do preschool.

My initial reaction to this (very detailed) view, is that there doesn’t seem to be major differences in answers across plans for preschool or not (Yes, No, or I don’t know). But, I did spot a few interesting things that may warrant theories but not a conclusions (since we’re in pretty small sample sizes with this view…).

The “I don’t know” parents had the highest activity rates across almost every category. Perhaps those parents are more open-minded, and they’re more focused on the present, and they plan to do more research before they make a decision?

Also, I noticed that the parents that answered “Yes” had the lowest activity levels on “Practice letters, words or numbers” and “Use a pencil, crayon, scissors.” Maybe these parents are less concerned about doing “preschool things,” since they’re expecting their kids to do that outside the home.

What’s important for being ready for kindergarten?

Now that we have a read on activities parents do with their kids, let’s look at what they considered to be the most important ways to be ready for kindergarten. We asked two different ranking questions. The first one relates to skills, and the second one has to do with social and emotional competencies.

On skills, the highest ranked option was “Can identify the letters of the alphabet” and the lowest was “Can read some words.” For the social and emotional category, “Communicating needs, wants, and thoughts verbally” was the big focus, and “Sits still and pays attention” was considered the least important.

But let’s go back to those “Pre-K aged families” and see if people answered differently based on whether they plan to do preschool or not.

Nope. Again, not much difference between how the parents answered based on their preschool plans — they have similar feelings about what the most important things are.

Remember, we shouldn’t read too much into this view since we’re not hearing from a big diverse group of parents, but I did think it was interesting that the “I don’t know” parents seemed to disagree the most on what the least important thing is for kindergarten readiness — their average rank for the bottom option was higher than the other two groups.

Who do you trust for info?

“Kindergarten readiness” a really important subject for parenting, and it’s not really a common sense sort of thing, so parents need to search for information about what’s important. We were wondering which sources of information our parent respondents trust the most.

Overall, the most trusted source of information was “Teachers.” That seems like a pretty safe bet… Also very trusted was “Doctor or other healthcare professionals,” which I found interesting. — They’re probably not the most qualified to advise on this, but people generally seem to have a high degree of trust in their doctors, and perhaps that translates to other subjects as well. The least trusted sources were “Social media” and the “Internet.” (Phew!)

Now let’s look at what the “Pre-K aged families” have to say about this and see if it’s different than the overall view.

Looks pretty much the same.

What do parents need or want?

As our last question about preschool, we added an open form field and asked parents what they most need or want, to help get their child ready for kindergarten.

Here’s a word cloud showing which items were named most often. I think it’s interesting that the most common word was “Information.” I see the second-most common word, “Access” as the more obvious thing. Also, feel free to scroll through each individual comment in the survey results page, here.

What about libraries?

Psyche! You thought we were done, right? Nope. That was our last preschool related question, but we threw in a few questions about libraries to round us out on the topic of early education. Libraries can be a major lifeline for families, whether they do preschool or not.

Overall, the most common answer to how often parents use a library is “Monthly” (33%), and “Weekly” (30%) is a close second. I actually was surprised that about 40% answered “Few times a year” or less often. Seems like our respondents should maybe be using that more.

I’m wondering if parents that have their kids in preschool use it less, since they’re getting educational assistance outside of libraries.

Yup! Looks like that’s a decent interpretation based on these results — parents that said they don’t have a child in preschool were about twice as likely to answer “Weekly”.

And, to the point of people underutilizing libraries, we wanted to get a sense of what keeps people from using it, if anything.

Overall, the biggest reason besides “Other” (40%, !!!) was “Hours of operation” (35%), followed by “Lack of interest” (21%). I was scanning the Other responses (you can too), and it looks like most of them have to do with being too busy or not having time. Makes sense…

And now we’re done. 😊

That’s all folks! If you want more analysis goodness, check out our other posts here.

Don’t buy it? Make it better.

Make Idaho Better is working to figure out what people really think. If you ever read our stuff and don’t believe the results, you could be right — maybe we aren’t hearing from enough people with different views.

If that’s what you think, help us get closer by joining and weighing in yourself, and ask your friends and family to do it too. The more people participate, the better the results will be. #DoYourPart

Make Idaho Better

Using surveys, public results and analysis, and stories to make Idaho voices heard and make a difference. Helping leaders find better solutions with innovative and affordable community engagement and market research.

Cameron Crow

Written by


Make Idaho Better

Using surveys, public results and analysis, and stories to make Idaho voices heard and make a difference. Helping leaders find better solutions with innovative and affordable community engagement and market research.

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