A State Approach to Bridging the Gap in Early Childhood Education

by: Katie Nolan | Tools and Infographics |May 29th, 2018

The Bottom Line

By kindergarten, 90% of a child’s brain capacity develops, yet per pupil funding for public Pre-K programs is just over a third of funding available in K-12.  The outcome is often limited access and participation in early childhood education (ECE) programs and unmet curriculum and educator professional development (PD) needs. Ultimately states have significant influence on both the level of funding and where funding is directed, and there is a large variance in both approach and success across states.


The State Dynamic

With the funding available, certain states are achieving significantly higher program participation rates than others.  Of the federal programs dedicated to ECE, current funding levels for the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) allow for only ~15% of eligible children to receive assistance nationally, while Early Head Start and Head Start serve just 3% of eligible infants / toddlers and 40% of eligible Pre-K-aged children.  That said, the top 5 performing states serve more than a quarter of 3-year-olds and greater than 70% of 4-year-olds in public programs – 30% more than the national averages.  Clearly, while some states are slow to meet demand, others are making noteworthy progress.

For ECE programs, however, access alone isn’t sufficient; quality initiatives such as educator professional development, child developmental assessments, and curricular / instructional resources are also important considerations.  Feedback from a national sample of ECE center directors and decision-makers conducted by Tyton Partners illustrates a few areas of particular interest:

  • 65% of programs identify the need for enhanced educator professional development on curricular materials
  • More than 50% of programs report flat or decreased spend on professional development in the past three years
  • 46% of providers have refreshed curriculum in the past three years
  • 47% of providers consider purchasing new curriculum with stronger alignment to state standards

Like access, funding available for quality initiatives also varies by state. Of the 20 states enrolling the most children in public ECE programs, Oregon spends more than $15,000 per child enrolled – or $3,000 more than any other state.  Larger states like California and Florida, on the other hand, spend less than $6,000 per child enrolled.

For investors and early childhood product and service providers, these variances in ECE participation and available funding can – and should – have a significant impact on their strategy and approach.

 Want to Continue the Conversation?

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Tyton Partners has unparalleled expertise and insights into this dynamic sector and the Pre-K-12, postsecondary, and corporate / workforce learning markets more broadly. We conduct extensive client-specific market, product, and customer analysis across the education sector and are happy to share our perspective or answer questions to catalyze efforts at your organization.


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