Few States Provide Pre-K for Children with Parent on Military Active Duty

Thirteen States Consider Military Status; States with Most Active Duty Members Don’t

New Brunswick, NJ—Only 13 states consider a parent’s military active duty status in a child’s eligibility for state-funded high-quality pre-K, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia include parent military active duty status as an eligibility criterion for state-funded pre-K.

“Providing high-quality pre-K for the young children of men and women on active duty ensures their children receive a high-quality start to their education, alleviates some of the family’s financial pressures, and is simply the right thing to do,” said W. Steven Barnett, founder and senior co-director of NIEER.

Six states—Florida, Vermont, Oklahoma, District of Columbia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia—already provide pre-K for all, or nearly all, children. In those states all children, including those with active duty military parents, are eligible based on age alone.

Access to high-quality pre-K for all children benefits them throughout the course of their entire lives. It helps raise children’s lifetime wages, high-school graduation rates, and years of education completed, it helps reduce crime and teen pregnancy, and it helps improve health outcomes, according to decades of research.

Pre-K programs in California, Georgia, Washington, Hawaii, and Colorado, five of the ten states with the largest number of military active duty personnel, do not consider a parent’s military active duty status.

More than 40 percent of military active duty members with children have children ages five and under, according to the Department of Defense. More than 410,00 children ages five and under have a parent on military active duty.

The most junior active duty members are the most likely to have young children. Nearly eighteen thousand members were 25 years or younger when they had their first child in 2018. Junior members also earn the least. The four lowest pay grades pay between $1554 to $2664 a month.

“Many young military families discover that even their low income makes them ineligible for Head Start, and private pre-K is out of their reach,” Barnett said. “These young Americans are making a sacrifice to serve their country. Their children shouldn’t have to sacrifice their education, too.”

The National Institute for Early Education Research (nieer.org), which is in the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy and practice through independent, objective research.

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