The State of Preschool Yearbook 2021


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.


Suggested Citation

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.