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Which States Most Efficiently Utilize Federal Child Care Dollars

Washington, DC – The District of Columbia, Minnesota, Maryland, Arkansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington are the top 10 states for integrating efficient early care and education systems, the latest analysis from the Bipartisan Policy Center finds. Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education Systems, Revisiting a State-by-State Analysis, is an update to BPC’s seminal 2018 report, highlighting the opportunities—and challenges—in administering comprehensive Early Care and Education (ECE) systems.  

“Fragmentation, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of coordination obstructs parent’s access,” said Linda Smith, BPC director of the Early Childhood Initiative. “When families must apply to multiple programs, housed across multiple agencies, often with duplicative paperwork and inconsistent eligibility criteria, many give up or receive fewer services than their family qualify for and would benefit from. But it’s more than improving the experience for families, aligning program standards and monitoring can reduce costs for the state and decrease the administrative burden for small early learning programs and community organizations. These actions improve the system for all involved.” 

Highlights of states’ progress include:  

  • Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Kentucky, and Wyoming—implemented a consolidated governance structure that decreased the number of agencies responsible for coordinating early childhood programs.  
  • Florida, Idaho, Kansas, and Texas—implemented an Early Childhood State Advisory Counsel.  
  • Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin—now use licensing health and safety standards as the foundation of their state’s Quality Rating Improvement System, ensuring inclusion of all early learning programs in quality standards.  
  • Nearly half, or 24 states, increased the amount of the TANF funding transferred to the state’s CCDF program, reducing the potential for administrative redundancy. 

As the pandemic unfolded, early care and education programs moved to the forefront of federal and state policy discussions as an essential service. Health and safety measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 took a deep toll on the financial viability of our nation’s ECE system. Early care and education programs were forced to scramble to continue offering services while absorbing additional health and safety costs. 

More than $50 billion dollars in federal pandemic relief funds stabilized the child care industry, but the funds also severely tested states’ abilities to distribute the money effectively and efficiently. In response to the pandemic, BPC re-reviewed all U.S. state governance systems and updated national rankings. Since BPC’s first analysis in 2018, more than half of states implemented a more efficient structure or strategy and 19 states improved their overall ranking.  

“Reducing administrative burdens, eliminating duplication, and easing families’ entry into multiple programs will increase access for those that need early care and education services the most,” Smith continued. “By and large, states have complete discretion over the organization and management of federal funds, and in the last few years state administrations have made great progress in decreasing the fragmentation, but more work remains to move toward a more seamless integration of early care and education services.” 

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