Between 2005 and 2009, the number of Latino 4-year-olds attending preschool fell nationwide from 53 percent to 48 percent. The Great Recession is to blame.
Bruce Fuller is a UC Berkeley professor of education. He coauthored the study. He says unemployment among Latina mothers was a contributing factor.
"So it looks like they've pulled back out of preschool as they lost their job and have been able to stay at home; the second factor is that we're seeing big cutback in state and federal preschool programs," Fuller said.
Chris Padula is with Jumpstart, a non-profit that offers supplemental learning to existing programs like Head Start and others. He does not see things getting better anytime soon.
"With the recovery dollars gone as well as the reality of some of the cuts happening nationwide and statewide I think we are really seeing some potentially devastating cuts ahead of us," Padula said.
The study also found that unlike Latinos kids, preschool enrollment among white and African American children showed no sign of weakening during the recession.
The study points out some immigrant families worry about being in contact with formal institutions especially given the animosity in Arizona.
The fear is that this will widen the achievement gap even more. Troubling, given that one-third of all Americans are expected to be of Latino heritage by 2050.
"It's going to be tough on the quality of the workforce, employers are going to find graduates 15 years out that are less literate and less skilled," Fuller said.
California will be especially affected.
"We are not looking at the future of our state and by cutting those essential services we are not only cutting the opportunities for individual children but we are also cutting the future prosperity of the state of California," Education Trust West spokesperson Arun Ramanathan.
The findings of this study will be presented in New Orleans at the Education Writers Association annual meeting.