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Revisiting Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education Systems

The Brief

In 2018 BPC set out to examine how states manage federal early childhood programs and released the first state-by-state analysis of integrated and efficient early care and education systems.  Fast forward to 2020 and 2021. Child care was thrust to the forefront during COVID-19. The federal government responded to the pandemic’s impact with three successive relief packages, giving the child care industry a much-needed boost of more than $50 billion dollars. However, this influx severely tested states’ funding management and governance structures. In response, BPC re-reviewed all U.S. state governance systems and updated state rankings.

Unsurprisingly, Congress and state officials have different perspectives regarding how efficiently child care funds are used. Congress claimed that more children and families could be served if states used federal funds more efficiently, and state officials complained that the federal government was the source of inefficiencies because of over-regulation.

In 2018, BPC examined how states manage federal early childhood programs to better understand if efficiencies were to be gained and where they occurred. BPC found wide variation in state governance structures.

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In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, child care became a national crisis. Essential workers needed to go to work, but many child care programs were forced to close because of a loss of enrollment, the lack of stable funding, and increased safety costs.

The federal government responded to the pandemic’s impact with three successive relief packages, giving the child care industry a much-needed boost of more than $50 billion dollars. However, these funds severely tested states’ funding management and governance structures.

Despite the influx of work—and possibly because of it—many states continued to improve their governance systems and oversight of child care funding.

As the nation emerges from the pandemic, BPC has revisited the 2018 report to see how states responded. Several states deserve a special shout out for exceptional progress: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Virginia.

Focusing on integration and alignment of programs matters in the everyday lives of families with young children who too often have trouble determining what services they might be eligible for, let alone how to go about accessing them. It is our hope that this report will help states as they continue to improve services to our families and children.

Methodology:

To rank states, BPC used a scoring system developed in 2018 that incorporates several measures of programmatic governance and integration. Specific factors considered in the scoring system include:

  • The number of state agencies involved in administering the major federal programs—CCDF; TANF; IDEA Part C; IDEA Part B, Section 219; and CACFP—and state Head Start Collaboration Offices and state preschool programs
  • Whether some funding streams were split across these agencies
  • The institutional placement of key offices, such as the Head Start Collaboration Office

BPC’s scoring system also considered whether a state has an early childhood state advisory council and the degree to which a state’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) was integrated into its child care subsidy systems.

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 their federal matching child care funds.

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.

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