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In December 2018, the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR) was awarded a federal Preschool Development Grant (PDG) Birth through Five (B–5) grant. The planning grant provided resources for a needs assessment of the state's B–5 system, particularly the system of early childhood care and education (ECCE), and the development of a strategic plan to advance the current B–5 system. In recognition of the importance of understanding the cost of quality ECCE in the state, OPSR contracted with the RAND Corporation to conduct a cost study as part of the PDG information-gathering activities. The study aimed to address the following questions:

  • Based on data collected from a small sample of licensed non–Head Start ECCE providers in Oklahoma, what is the estimated per-child cost of ECCE for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children?
  • Based on a cost model tailored to the context of ECCE provision in Oklahoma, what are the fundamental ECCE cost drivers such as provider scale, ages of children served, quality rating tier, geographic region, and key structural parameters often associated with quality (e.g., teacher-child ratio, teacher qualifications, and compensation)?

To address these questions, the RAND team collected data from 25 non–Head Start center- and home-based ECCE providers throughout Oklahoma in 2019 to understand their program structure and the associated expenditures for the most recently completed fiscal year. The information supported estimation of the per-child cost of care by child age, setting, and quality rating. While not intended to provide a representative sample, the data collected from the sampled providers supported the development of a cost model that was used to examine the most important cost drivers and the implications for per-child cost of care.

The findings from this analysis should be of interest to stakeholders in Oklahoma focused on the cost of quality ECCE in the state, with implications for the cost to providers of delivering ECCE, the prices that families would be expected to pay, and the system of subsidies targeted to lower-income families to support their access to child care and early learning experiences for their children prior to entering kindergarten. The report may also be of interest to stakeholders in other states concerned with these same issues.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Study Approach

  • Chapter Three

    Cost Analysis Results

  • Chapter Four

    Key Findings, Policy Considerations, and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Oklahoma Child Care Licensing Requirements

  • Appendix B

    Additional Documentation of Methods for Data Collection and Cost Estimation for the Sampled Providers

  • Appendix C

    Cost Survey Data Collection Instrument

  • Appendix D

    Additional Documentation of Model-Based Estimates

The research described in this report was prepared for the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR) and conducted by RAND Education and Labor and RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation working paper series. RAND working papers are intended to share researchers' latest findings and to solicit informal peer review. They have been approved for circulation by RAND but may not have been formally edited or peer reviewed.

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