Ideas. Action. Results.

Creating an Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education System to Support Children and Families: A State-by-State Analysis

Thursday, December 13, 2018

“Few policy challenges are more important to our nation’s future than helping all American children get the strong start they need.”

This was the conclusion reached by former Rep. George Miller of California and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, as co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Initiative. Their 2017 report, A Bipartisan Case for Early Childhood Development, highlighted recent advances in the science of brain development to argue for a policy agenda aimed at ensuring that all children have access to quality care and learning experiences in the crucial years before they enter school.

Despite federal funding to support quality care and learning for all children, the data show that just a fraction of eligible children receive subsidies for child care. A 2015 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that just 11 percent of federally eligible children received subsidies.

Fortunately, calls for action on early care and education (ECE) have been finding a receptive audience among policymakers and the public, as interest in early child development and recognition of its lifelong impacts continues to grow. One result, in recent years, has been a substantial increase in federal funding for programs that explicitly address ECE for young children. The federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, for example, provides grants to states to help offset the cost of child care for low-income families and undertake other activities aimed at improving the quality of child care. Congress appropriated nearly double the amount of CCDBG funding in fiscal year (FY) 2018 compared with FY 2017, increasing overall funding for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) from $5.8 billion to $8.1 billion. Congress also increased funding for other major ECE programs, including Head Start and Early Head Start, in FY 2018. While these increases are historic, the need for ECE programs still outpaces the funding.

At the same time, Congress and the federal agencies have taken steps to address concerns about duplication, fragmentation, and “stovepiping” in the patchwork of government programs that serve young children and their families. As early as 1994, Congress requested that the GAO examine issues of governance and coordination in existing ECE programs. Since its first report on this topic, in 1996, the GAO has published six follow-up studies. Its most recent report—issued in 2017—found that the federal government has had some success in reducing fragmentation and overlap in ECE programs.

Whether states, which receive and disburse the vast majority of federal ECE funds, are having similar success in addressing issues of coordination and integration, however, has been less clear—especially since the GAO reports to date have focused only on the federal agencies. In an effort to fill this gap, BPC reviewed publicly available data (such as expenditure data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), as well as state and program websites, and worked with all 50 states and the District of Columbia to verify information about states’ specific approaches to organizing and administering ECE programs, including programs funded by federal appropriations as well as state-funded Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) and preschool programs. BPC’s interest in ECE governance at the state level follows from the observation that states generally have wide latitude in the way they choose to organize, manage, and fund ECE programs on the ground. Better program integration and coordination at the state level is thus important, not only because it promotes the efficient use of public funds but also because it bears directly on families’ ability to access the resources they need.

Information collected by BPC was used to generate individual state fact sheets. In addition, BPC created a simple scoring system to enable cross-state comparisons of program integration. The scoring system was used to rank states in terms of their relative success across a number of measures: consolidating program administration, establishing advisory councils, implementing quality measures, and deploying available funds.


State Fact Sheets


*State declined to participate. A score was calculated based on publicly available information but no ranking was given.


To compare states, BPC developed a scoring system that combines several of the measures of program organization and integration discussed in the report. Specific factors considered in the scoring system include the following:

  • The number of state agencies involved in administering core early care and education (ECE) programs, specifically Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); IDEA Part B, Section 619 preschool grants for children with disabilities; IDEA Part C early intervention program for infants and toddlers with disabilities; Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP); state Pre-K; and the Head Start Collaboration Office.
  • Whether some funding streams were split across agencies (such as child care subsidy and child care quality programs).
  • The institutional home for child care, state Pre-K, and CACFP administration.
  • The institutional home of the Head Start Collaboration Office

BPC’s scoring system also took into account whether a state had an early childhood state advisory council (SAC) and the degree to which a state’s quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) was integrated with its child care subsidy systems. (For example, did the state have a QRIS and, if so, was it linked to licensing—whether required or voluntary—for child care providers who participated in the state’s child care subsidy system?)

Bonus points were awarded for states that supplemented their federal ECE funding beyond specified matching or maintenance-of-effort requirements. States lost points if they did not draw down all of their federal matching child care funds.

The general concept was that states scored higher for more integrated administration of ECE programs and for supplementing federal funds with additional state resources beyond the minimum level required, whereas states scored lower if ECE program administration was spread over a larger number of agencies and/or the state did not use all the federal funds available to it. In BPC’s scoring system, states could earn a maximum of 50 base points, based on ECE integration, and a maximum of 20 bonus points, based on supplementing federal funds with additional state resources.

Additional details on the scoring rubric are found in Appendix C of the report.