Early Childhood Education

  • High-quality early childhood programs can help children in low-income families develop the skills they need to succeed in school and gives parents the support they need to be productive at work. Studies show that low income children who participate in high quality early childhood programs are less likely to be placed in special education, have lower rates of juvenile crime, and are more likely to graduate from school – an economic as well as societal return on the investment.  But only one in six children eligible for federal child care assistance receives it. Head Start serves only about half of eligible preschoolers and Early Head Start serves approximately four percent of eligible infants and toddlers. After-school programs can also help enrich children while supporting working families. Yet, more than 14 million children (25 percent of school-age children) have no access to after school programs. In 2012 the situation continued to decline with families in 27 states worse off under one or more key child care assistance policies in 2012 than in 2011. Twenty-three states have waiting lists for child care assistance and only one state pays rates at the federally recommended level, a sharp decline from 2001 when 22 states had rates at the recommended level.

    Created in 1965, Head Start is the nation’s premier early childhood development program. Head Start targets the poorest children; about 900,000 children are enrolled each year. Studies show that Head Start graduates have higher grades in numerals, language, literacy, social conduct, and physical development compared to their non-Head Start peers.

    For more information on this issue, visit CHN’s Public Policy Priorities, 2013-2014.

    Advocacy Organizations

    Children’s Defense Fund
    National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
    National Head Start Association
    National Women’s Law Center