Policy Matters


Momentum is building across Kentucky for increased access to high-quality early learning opportunities for our youngest children and stronger support for their working parents.  The Kentucky Early Childhood Education Taskforce, co-chaired by Senator Danny Carroll (R-02) and Representative Samara Heavrin (R-18), united leaders from both parties and both houses of the legislature to tackle access to early education, Governor Beshear made reference to the importance of early education throughout the 2022 Kentucky legislative session, and local leaders in communities like Owensboro have united to secure greater opportunities for early learning at the local level.  

And for good reason.  Access to high-quality early learning is critical to the success of Kentucky’s young children and their families: 

  • Exposure to early education opportunities closes gaps in achievement for all children throughout their educational and life experiences. 
  • According to The Education Commission of the States, children who participate in early learning arrive at kindergarten better prepared, ultimately increasing their likelihood of meeting standards in reading and math by the close of the third grade.  
  • Additionally, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, early learning experiences better prepare young children for social interactions, strengthen emotional competencies, and bolster pro-social emotional dispositions among peer groups, better preparing young children for a lifetime of working well with others. 

And yet, Kentucky ranks 41st in the nation in the number of four-year olds enrolled in preschool, a fall from 28th in the nation in 2008.  For the last decade, the total number of Kentucky children enrolled in preschool have flatlined at around 50%.  Further, per the KIDS COUNT Data Center,  half of all Kentucky kids arrive at kindergarten unprepared according the Brigance screener.  In their earliest years, half of Kentucky kids are left behind their peers who were fortunate enough to have received a stronger start earlier in their life journeys.  

As big of an impact that access to early education has on Kentucky’s youngsters, that access has a similarly important impact on their working parents.  Across Kentucky a patchwork system of early education opportunities exist to support young learners while their parents are working: 

  • Public preschool services provide opportunities for approximately 50% of young children in Kentucky, but per the National Institute for Early Education Research, only 94 of Kentucky’s 525 public preschool programs provide full day services, limiting access for working parents dependent on care for their child for a full working day. 
  • Complicating matters, access to other early learning opportunities, like private child care and early learning centers, are costly for working families. 
  • The average yearly cost of child care for preschool aged children in Kentucky, per Child Care Aware, comes in at just under $9,000 per year.  By comparison, the average price tag for tuition at a four-year college or university costs families about $10,700 per year.  

Early care and education opportunities for the children of working families is a key support needed in Kentucky’s economic ecosystem to support a strong workforce.  In the height of the pandemic, for example, over 45% of Kentucky parents in a statewide survey indicated that someone in the family had quit a job, did not take a job, or changed jobs due to child care issues.  More recently, over 100,000 Kentucky women have exited the workforce totally due to a lack of early care and education access and affordability.  

But it doesn’t have to be this way for Kentucky’s youngest children and their working parents. 

A system of mixed-delivery preschool is a best-practice model tested in Kentucky’s peer states and is the common-sense solution to effectively provide high-quality early learning to more of Kentucky’s children and to better support their working parents. 

This blog series will guide Kentuckians through an exploration of mixed-delivery preschool and the power this model has to benefit Kentucky’s children, their working parents, and Kentucky’s economy.

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Why is mixed-delivery preschool needed? Can’t we just expand the public school system?  Many local school districts lack the personnel and facility space needed to readily expand public preschool to all four-year-olds. Public-private partnerships among already existing private child care facilities and the public school system eliminate barriers to the sustainable expansion of preschool, such
A mixed-delivery model is best understood as placing a public preschool classroom within a private child care center. Mixed-delivery preschool facilitates partnership among public school districts and private child care providers to expand access to publicly funded early learning services.  A mixed-delivery system wraps child care services around public preschools to provide full working day

Over the last two weeks, I’ve done a lot of reading state law and local district policies on enrolling nonresident pupils. That’s allowed me to write our Prichard Committee “just-the-facts-ma’am” explainer. In the process, I’ve also formed some opinions about how these changes can be handled to work constructively (or as constructively as possible) for students, staff, families, and communities. They’re my starting thoughts, and I’ll share them here.

Kentucky has new enrollment rules for nonresident students, creating added opportunities for a student who lives in one school district to enroll in another. Aiming to be helpful to families and community members, we’ve identified likely questions and answer, and that analysis is now available in our two-page “explainer.”

Kentucky postsecondary will receive important funding increases, and P-12 education will also gain ground. Early childhood, however, will not see new investment from the General Fund. That’s the super education impacts of the new spending plan released by the General Assembly’s Free Conference Committee Report yesterday evening. Though changes are still technically possible, that plan has a very strong chance of becoming Kentucky’s state budget for the next two years. This post will highlight how the FCCR addresses Big Bold Ask (BBA) priorities, and our regular budget summary documents will be shared at the bottom.

“The Prichard Committee opposes Senate Bill 1 with the addition of Senate Bill 138 as passed this morning. Kentucky has an established process of standard revision set forth in Senate Bill 1 (2017) and a commitment to local decision-making for curriculum and instructional materials, which is inclusive of parents and local leaders. The existing process is a systemic way to develop the state’s standards and curriculum frameworks, serving to empower all Kentucky students with the abilities and capacities needed to become informed citizens and participants in a global economy. Legislative mandates, as put forth in Senate Bill 138, may reduce the quality of education provided by Kentucky’s public schools and received by Kentucky’s students.”

As passed on the House floor yesterday, the Prichard Committee opposes House Bill 9. The pilot program introduced in the bill yesterday could compel authorizers to approve public charter schools that do not meet the quality requirements for a charter applicant. Therefore, House Bill 9 does not fit our long-stated position that any charter school system be well-regulated and accountable for improved academic outcomes.

The Prichard Committee has not been a proponent nor an opponent of public charter schools. We believe that is the wrong question. Rather, the question we ask is: How do we close longstanding and persistent achievement gaps in our state?

When analyzing the research on charter school effectiveness, The Center for Research on Student Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University is still the gold standard.