The State of Preschool Yearbook 2021
April 1, 2022
The State of Preschool 2021 annual report covers the 2020-2021 school year, the first school year fully impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic created difficulties such as health risks, closed classrooms, and remote preschool that disrupted already fragile systems. Enrollment declined by 18%, the first decrease in preschool enrollment in two decades. Preschool spending decreased too, but not as dramatically because many states protected preschool funding despite lower enrollments and preserved capacity for a rebound in enrollment. States also utilized federal funding, including pandemic relief funds to support preschool. Quality remains a concern as most states spend too little per child to provide a high quality program, and states relaxed standards during the pandemic.
Across the 44 states, DC, and Guam that funded a preschool program in 2020-2021, 29% of 4-year-olds and 5% of 3-year-olds were enrolled, a substantial decrease from pre-pandemic levels, erasing a decade of growth in preschool enrollment. Three state-funded preschool programs made changes to gain an additional benchmark for minimum quality standards (KS, UT, WA ECEAP). State funding for preschool fell by $254 million (adjusted for inflation) but spending from all sources increased. State preschool spending per child remains essentially the same as two decades ago, adjusting for inflation, below $6,000.
In the report, NIEER lays out policy recommendations for states and the federal government to expedite increased access to high-quality, full-day preschool.
- Full Report
- Executive Summary
- What Qualifies as a State Preschool Program?
- Roadmap to State Profile Pages
- 2021 Survey Data
- National Press Release / en español
- Pre-release Reporters Briefing (YouTube)
- Unworthy Wage Report / Press Release
District of Columbia
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Republic of Palau
Allison Friedman-Krauss is an Assistant Research Professor at NIEER where she is also the Associate Director for Policy Research and Director of the Infant and Toddler Policy Research Center.
W. Steven (Steve) Barnett is a Board of Governors Professor and the founder and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett’s work primarily focuses on public policies regarding early childhood education, child care, and child development.
Karin Garver is an Early Childhood Education Policy Specialist at NIEER. Her research interests are in national and state early education policy trends, inclusive opportunities for preschool children with disabilities, data systems, systems integration, and public program finance.
Kate is an Early Childhood Education Policy Specialist at NIEER, where she primarily focuses on state and national policy analysis. Her current work includes collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data for the annual State of Preschool Yearbook report, providing technical assistance to New Jersey school districts and private providers applying for and implementing the state-funded preschool program, among other projects.
GG Weisenfeld is a Senior ECE Policy Specialist at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education.
Beth Gardiner is an Early Childhood Education Technical Assistance Specialist at NIEER, working on various projects, with a primary focus on supporting New Jersey state preschool expansion and high-quality program implementation.
Friedman-Krauss, A. H., Barnett, W. S., Garver, K. A., Hodges, K. S., Weisenfeld, G., Gardiner, B. A., Jost, T. M. (2022). The State of Preschool 2021: State Preschool Yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.