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Few States Coordinating Child Care and Preschools

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Although a growing number of states are providing services for very young children, few have launched efforts to coordinate early childhood education and day-care programs with varied purposes and funding sources, suggests a new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The report says the lack of coordination stems from the fact that the two types of programs generally are tied to different social goals and administered by different agencies under different fiscal policies.

The report, "State Fiscal Policies for Child Care and Early Childhood Education," says that if states coordinated these efforts, they could better meet the education and child-care needs of families, particularly as reform's focus shifts to early-childhood programs and more mothers enter the work force.

Although "some states are beginning to look for methods to minimize expenditures through coordination," the report says that only Massachusetts and Vermont now have programs that coordinate the two types of programs. It notes that North Carolina is also considering an early-childhood-education pilot program with full-day child care.

The report says most early-childhood funding flows through state education departments, most commonly under competitive grants. Alaska, Maine, Rhode Island, and Washington State appropriate state funds to help support local Head Start programs; Maine, Connecticut, Massachsetts, and Rhode Island appropriate state funds either to serve more students under the federal program or increase Head Start teacher salaries.

Other states, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, channel funds to school districts based on state-aid formulas.

Varied Child-Care Efforts

The report says states finance child care from a variety of sources; the largest single source is the federal social-services block grant.

States also fund child care for low-income parents through the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. The report says Alaska, California, Minnesota, and Rhode Island provide sliding-fee subsidies for child care for low-income families; just over half the states provide child-care assistance through state tax codes.

Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania provide incentives for private-sector employers to subsidize employees' child care or help expand community child-care services, according to the report. Several states also provide child-care assistance for state employees, target child-care aid for parents in training or education programs, or help fund child-care information services or staff training.

To help cut costs for providers, Arizona, Connecticut, and Massachusetts offer aid in the form of tax deductions for facilities construction, low-interest loans, liability insurance, or rent assistance. For information on the report, write Terry Gnezda, senior project manager, National Conference of State Legislatures, 444 N. Capitol St., N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20001.

--dg

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