State of Preschool

2023 Yearbook

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State-by-State Disparities Widening in Preschool Access, Quality, Funding

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The 21st State of Preschool finds the state of preschool in America at a critical moment. The states have emerged, albeit unevenly, from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are poised to make new progress toward more effective and equitable preschool policies. Additional states have committed to offering every child publicly funded preschool education and have begun working towards that goal. Enrollment in preschool increased in 2022-2023 and the percent of 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool reached all-time highs. But the number of children enrolled in state-funded preschool is still lower than it was prior to the pandemic, and six states are still without programs. All but a few states fall short of meeting at least one benchmark for policies regarding quality, and many fall short of meeting most of the benchmarks. Inadequate funding is a near universal problem. A key question for the future is whether or not states will increase funding enough to keep promises regarding program expansion and quality, including adequate pay for the workforce. Will this be the turning point needed for the country to make real progress towards high quality universal preschool? 

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The opinions expressed in this report are solely those of the authors. We wish to thank the Heising-Simons Foundation for supporting data collection and the development, production, and dissemination of this publication. Established in 2007 by husband and wife Mark Heising and Elizabeth (Liz) Simons, The Heising-Simons Foundation is dedicated to advancing sustainable solutions in the environment, supporting groundbreaking research in science, and enhancing the education of the nation’s youngest learners. In addition, we wish to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their support of the State of Preschool report. Finally, the authors would like to extend our thanks to Sandy Ogilvie for her assistance on this report. 

This publication is a product of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), a unit of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. NIEER supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research.

Suggested Citation

Friedman-Krauss, A. H., Barnett, W. S., Hodges, K. S., Garver, K. A., Jost, T. M., Weisenfeld, G., Duer J. (2024). The State of Preschool 2023: State Preschool Yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.