Prichard Committee Releases Study On Costs of Quality for Early Childhood Education

LEXINGTON, KY – The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence today released the results of a year-long “Cost of Quality for Early Childhood Education” study to inform investment decisions to increase quality early care and education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

“Having objective information on the true costs of providing quality early childhood programs is important as our policymakers make state budget decisions,” said Prichard Committee Executive Director, Brigitte Blom Ramsey.  “Most brain development happens during a child’s earliest years when many children are in early childhood programs while their parents work. Ensuring these programs are high quality is important if we want to reap the full benefits of the Commonwealth’s investments in early learning. The stronger the early childhood experience, the more likely children are to be on track to 3rd grade reading proficiency, and the less likely they are to need early remediation.”

The Committee consulted with a statewide advisory group and national early childhood finance experts to build cost models for the study. The model revealed information about funding for preschool and child care assistance programs in the state:

Kentucky Preschool Program: The Kentucky Preschool Program currently serves nearly 10,000 3- and 4-year-olds with special needs and over 9,000 4-year-olds with family incomes at or below 160% of the federal poverty level. Currently, Kentucky funds school districts at a per-child rate of $7,810 for children with severe or multiple disabilities and $4,100 for other eligible children.

The study’s estimates suggest that to fund even a minimum level of quality, the rates should be raised to $8,798 for children with severe or multiple disabilities and $4,961 for other eligible children.

Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP): The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) helps working families with incomes at or below 160% of the federal poverty level afford care for nearly 27,000 Kentucky infants, toddlers, and young children. With federal funds from the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) program and state General Fund dollars, Kentucky partially reimburses child care centers for providing care and education to eligible children. The rates vary by a child’s age and the geographic areas of the state.

The study’s estimates suggest that CCAP reimbursement rates should be raised significantly for providers offering higher rates of quality and for infants and one-year-olds at all levels of quality.

Years of multi-disciplinary research support the importance of quality early childhood education as important for children’s preparation for school and life. From a public investment standpoint, $1 invested in high quality early childhood education returns between $7 to $13 through stronger academic and life outcomes. 

High-quality early learning puts children on a path toward kindergarten readiness and proficiency in reading and mathematics by the end of third grade. The Kentucky Department of Education recently set a goal of reducing gaps to proficiency by half by 2030 which will require increasing 3rd grade proficiency and beyond for at least an additional 4,800 children in reading and 6,300 children in math by 2020.

Strengthening the state’s investment in quality early learning programs, especially for students living in poverty, is an important first step toward reaching those targets. This Cost of Quality Study will be useful for policymakers as they make decisions about this critical aspect of the state’s education policy.

The study was funded by a grant from The Northern Kentucky Family of Funds of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, a grant from the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, and in-kind support from the Alliance for Early Success.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group. Comprised of volunteer civic and business leaders from across Kentucky, the Committee has worked to improve education for Kentuckians of all ages since 1983.


Megan McDougal