Economics and Finance

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In this report we explore the extent to which 41 states, the District of Columbia, and three large cities support high-quality state-funded preschool education. The framework for our assessment of state capacity is provided by “15 essential elements” of high-quality pre-K. These can be categorized into three clusters: enabling environment, rigorous policies, and strong practices. We believe that our assessments of the extent to which each element is present in each state will be useful to policy makers, researchers, and others interested in understanding how much progress each state has made and what the opportunities and barriers may be for further progress. The ratings apply to policies as of June 30, 2016.

In 2013, preschool education received more attention in the media and public policy circles than it has for some time, in part because of a series of high-profile proposals to expand access to quality pre-K.  The scientific basis for these proposed expansions of quality pre-K is impressive.  This paper brings to bear the full weight of the evidence to address the following questions:

  • What does all the evidence say about effective preschool education and long-term cognitive benefits?
  • What are the estimated effects of state and local pre-K programs in more recent years?
  • Is Head Start ineffective? 
  • Can government improve the quality of public preschool education? 
  • If states expand pre-K with temporary federal matching funds, what happens to state education budgets when that federal money is not available?

NIEER projects that in 2030 all but 1 state would spend less on education from pre-K through grade 12 under federal proposals that incentivize states to raise pre-K quality standards, offer a full school day, and serve all children under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. 

Presentation by NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett at the Congressional Briefing on April 30, 2013 accompanying the release of The State of Preschool 2012: State Preschool Yearbook in Washington, DC.

Remarks and presentation by NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett at the release of The State of Preschool 2012: State Preschool Yearbook in Washington, DC.

This presentation includes findings from decades worth of research on preschool education and its benefits.

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