District of Columbia

Access Rankings


Resource Rankings

State spending
All reported spending

Total Benchmarks Met

Of 10 benchmarks possible


During the 2022-2023 school year, the District of Columbia preschool enrolled 12,789 children, an increase of 463 from the prior year. Spending totaled $284,007,157, up $15,143,727 (6%), adjusted for inflation, since last year. Spending per child equaled $22,207 in 2022-2023, up $394 from 2021-2022, adjusted for inflation. The District of Columbia met 4 of 10 quality standards benchmarks.


Among the first in the nation to invest in early education, the District has offered pre-K since the 1960s. The District began to bolster its investment in pre-K significantly through the Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Amendment Act of 2008 (Pre-K Act). The Pre-K Act provides public, quality, universally accessible pre-K via a mixed-delivery system in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), Public Charter Schools (PCS), and publicly-funded Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that participate in the Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Program. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) oversees the District’s Universal Pre-K Program, including programs in DCPS and CBOs. PCSs are authorized and monitored by the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB). Additionally, the District’s Head Start and Early Head Start grantees serve thousands of children and their families through early learning and comprehensive services and supports; all District Head Start grantees also participate in the universal pre-K system, but may also serve children not eligible for public pre-K.

Pre-K programs operate five days a week for a minimum of 6.5 hours per day and a minimum of 180 instructional days per year. Given the high availability and participation, this program can be considered universal, as the District has a higher percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled than any U.S. state or territory. Funding for public pre-K programs is based on the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula, with spending per pupil adjusted through a series of weights for higher-cost grade levels and supplemental funding weights for students with additional needs.

Program quality is measured using the CLASS Pre-K, which informs a school rating that is included on each school’s DC School Report Card. The PCSB also uses CLASS Pre-K in its Performance Management Framework, which provides all public charter schools with an annual score. For CBOs, CLASS Pre-K assessments are used for Capital Quality, the District’s QRIS. In the 2022-2023 school year CLASS observations were conducted in 859 pre-K classrooms. CLASS scores, across all observed domains, increased since the 2021-2022 school year continuing a trend of improvement over time since the 2017-2018 school year. Performance across sectors was strong with variation in performance among classrooms within each sector (DCPS, PCS and CBOs) greater than variations between sectors.

District of Columbia Universal Pre-K


Total state pre-K enrollment12,789
School districts that offer state program100% (wards)
Income requirementNo income requirement
Minimum hours of operation6.5 hours/day; 5 days/week
Operating scheduleSchool or academic year
Special education enrollment, ages 3 and 41,374
Federally funded Head Start enrollment, ages 3 and 4429
State-funded Head Start enrollment, ages 3 and 40


Total state pre-K spending$284,007,157
Local match required?No
State Head Start spending$0
State spending per child enrolled$22,207
All reported spending per child enrolled*$22,207

*Pre-K programs may receive additional funds from federal or local sources that are not included in this figure. †Head Start per-child spending includes funding only for 3- and 4-year-olds. ‡K–12 expenditures include capital spending as well as current operating expenditures.

District of Columbia Quality Standards Checklist

Policy RequirementBenchmarkMeets Benchmark?

For more information about the benchmarks, see the Executive Summary and the Roadmap to State pages.

4benchmarks met
Early Learning & Development Standards BenchmarkComprehensive, aligned, supported, culturally sensitiveComprehensive, aligned, supported, culturally sensitive
Curriculum Supports BenchmarkApproval process & supportsApproval process & supports
Teacher Degree BenchmarkBA (DCPS & CBO); Determined locally (PCS)BA
Teacher Specialized Training BenchmarkECE, Elem. Ed., (DCPS); ECE or related field (CBO); Determined locally (PCS)Specializing in pre-K
Assistant Teacher Degree BenchmarkAA or Paraprofessional Certification (DCPS); AA (CBO); Determined locally (PCS)CDA or equivalent
Staff Professional Development Benchmark30 hours/year (DCPS teachers); 21 hours/year (CBO teachers & assistants); PD plans (Head Start teachers & CBO teachers & assistants); Coaching (DCPS)For teachers & assistants: At least 15 hours/year; individual PD plans; coaching
Maximum Class Size BenchmarkDCPS & CBO only: 16 (3-year-olds); 20 (4-year-olds)20 or lower
Staff to Child Ratio BenchmarkDCPS & CBO only: 1:8 (3-year-olds); 1:10 (4-year-olds)1:10 or better
Screening & Referral BenchmarkVision, hearing, health & moreVision, hearing & health screenings; & referral
Continuous Quality Improvement System BenchmarkStructured classroom observations; Data used for program improvementStructured classroom observations; data used for program improvement