Special Report
Early Childhood

Government Programs Undergird Early-Ed. Priorities

By Madeline Will — January 03, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Programs at all levels of government—federal, state, and local—provide a wide range of direct and indirect early-childhood and early-education services. They range from sweeping anti-poverty initiatives that deal with wellness, readiness, and whole-family issues to targeted school-based educational programs. Here’s a look at some major federal early-childhood efforts, both long-standing and proposed, as well as a sampling of significant state and local initiatives:

FEDERAL PROGRAMS

Head Start:
Born in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty, Head Start provides preschool programs and health and nutrition services to low-income children and their families. The program received a $1 billion boost in funding in the fiscal 2014 budget, bringing it to about $8.6 billion. Of that increase, $500 million went to Early Head Start, which serves children from birth to age 3. The money is aimed at setting up Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships, which will allow Early Head Start programs to partner with local providers and centers to improve program quality.

Child Care and Development Block Grants:
The program, created in 1990, provides grants to states to help low-income, working families pay for child care. The fiscal 2014 federal budget allocated roughly $5.3 billion for the program, including a $154 million boost from fiscal 2013. A reauthorization in November updated the requirements on state background checks for providers and will require states to set aside more money for program improvement.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
This federal grant program was originally enacted in 1975 to help states provide special education and early intervention services to children with disabilities. Section 619, Part B of the IDEA pays for children ages 3-5, while Part C of the Act helps states provide early-intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities.

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965:
Title I funds are aimed at high-poverty districts and schools and distributed under a complex federal formula. Districts or schools can use those funds to start a preschool program for eligible children and can also coordinate the funds to support other preschool programs, such as Head Start. A Title I school can use all or part of its Title I money to operate a schoolwide or targeted preschool program for eligible children, while a school system can reserve only a portion of its Title I funds for a preschool program for the whole district or a portion.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVES

  • Preschool for All: In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama announced a 10-year, $75 billion commitment for a major expansion of states’ early-childhood-education programs, Preschool for All. The proposed money might come from raising federal tobacco taxes, but Congress first has to approve the spending.
  • Race to the Top, Early Learning Challenge: Funded under the administration’s Race to the Top competitive-grant program aimed at spurring state-level improvements, the Early Learning Challenge has had three phases so far. Overall, 20 states have won roughly $1 billion in grants.
  • Preschool Development Grants: In December, the administration announced that 18 states won a $250 million preschool-development-grant competition. Five states with small or no state-funded preschool programs split a share of $80 million in development grants, while 13 states that have larger state-funded preschool programs split expansion grants totaling $160 million.
  • Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships: The initiative connects Early Head Start grantees with center-based and family-child-care providers that meet performance standards and provide full-day services. The effort is intended to expand high-quality early learning to more than 100,000 low-income infants and toddlers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced 234 preliminary grantees in December.

STATE AND LOCAL INITIATIVES

  • In two years, Michigan has more than doubled its state preschool spending—with an additional $65 million in both fiscal 2014 and 2015—aiming to expand its program that offers free, high-quality prekindergarten to 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.
  • Mississippi, which was until recently the only Southern state without a publicly funded preschool program, set aside $3 million in state grants to school districts for pre-K programs.
  • In October, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced he would ask for $37 million from the state legislature in the 2017 budget to fund a voluntary, half-day, universal preschool program; the state currently does not have public preschool.
  • Georgia had the country’s first universal, voluntary state-funded pre-K program, and the calendar was restored to 180 days in the 2013-14 school year.
  • Oklahoma’s state-funded universal preschool program—every 4-year-old has free access to a year of high-quality pre-K—has been praised as a model for the rest of the country.
  • New York City has more than doubled the number of 4-year-olds who attend pre-K this school year, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to implement free, universal pre-K. The state provided $300 million to the city for the effort.
  • The District of Columbia ranks first in the nation in preschool access, with 94 percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in public preschool, according to data from the National Institute for Early Education Research.
  • Indianapolis has a $40 million, five-year plan to offer public preschool for up to 1,200 low-income children, who could start receiving preschool scholarships for the 2015-16 school year, pending the funding’s approval by the City-County Council.
  • Seattle voters just approved a measure that will levy a property tax on city homeowners to develop an affordable, voluntary preschool program. The tax will raise about $58 million over four years.
  • San Antonio launched a full-day preschool program in 2013-14 for low-income children, funded by an increase in the city’s sales tax.

Sources: Education Week; U.S. Department of Education; National Institute for Early Education Research

In March 2024, Education Week announced the end of the Quality Counts report after 25 years of serving as a comprehensive K-12 education scorecard. In response to new challenges and a shifting landscape, we are refocusing our efforts on research and analysis to better serve the K-12 community. For more information, please go here for the full context or learn more about the EdWeek Research Center.

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Early Childhood Preschool Studies Show Lagging Results. Why?
Researchers try to figure out why modern preschool programs are less effective than the landmark projects in the 1960s and 70s.
7 min read
Black female teacher and group of kids coloring during art class at preschool.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Early Childhood What the Research Says A New Study Shows How Schools Can Maximize Full-Day Pre-K's Benefits
Researchers said principals played a key role in students' academic success through 3rd grade.
6 min read
Teacher Honi Allen, right, supervises as children test how far they can jump at the St. John's Preschool in American Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 28, 2023.
Teacher Honi Allen, right, supervises as children test how far they can jump at the St. John's Preschool in American Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 28, 2023.
Kyle Green/AP
Early Childhood What's Behind the Gaps in Early Intervention Services—And What It Means for K-12 Schools
The GAO says better data could help remove barriers to accessing early intervention services.
3 min read
Close crop of the back of a pre-school girl's head showing her playing with foam puzzle pieces of shapes and numbers.
iStock/Getty
Early Childhood What the Research Says 6 Challenges for Early Educators as Preschool Growth Halts
School enrollment for the nation’s youngest learners has nosedived—and could cause long-term problems.
4 min read
Close crop of the back of a pre-school girl's head showing her playing with foam puzzle pieces of shapes and numbers.
iStock/Getty