High-Quality Publicly Funded Pre-Kindergarten Programs
May 6, 2021
In this report, RAND researchers examine seven publicly funded pre-kindergarten (pre-K) systems across six jurisdictions and use two analytical methods — cost data collection and cost modeling — to estimate the cost of a high-quality pre-K program. They also outline the challenges in understanding full pre-K program costs and the implications for policymakers and future research.
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States and localities throughout the United States are expanding their investments in pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs. Although spending on publicly funded pre-K programs is well documented, relatively less is known about the true cost to deliver the programs, especially considering varying quality standards and accounting for the resources used at both the provider and system levels. This report attempts to help fill that knowledge gap.
The researchers examine seven pre-K systems across six jurisdictions and use two analytical methods — cost data collection and cost modeling — to estimate the cost of a high-quality pre-K program. They also explore whether state-provided funding appears to be adequate to cover the costs of providing high-quality programs. Finally, the researchers outline the challenges in understanding full pre-K program costs and the implications for policymakers and future research. Having a better understanding of the expected costs may inform the initial planning for or expansion of a pre-K investment, guide the mechanism for reimbursing providers of the pre-K program, support estimates of the incremental cost of further quality investments, and even identify the quality enhancements that are the most cost-effective.
The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and RAND Social and Economic Well-Being and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.
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