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 as facilities capacity and teacher shortages faced by public school districts.

A full-scale expansion of public preschool without public-private partnerships will crash the private child care industry, leaving limited to no care available for families with children aged 0-3, according to the Early Care and Education Consortium.

  • In Tulsa, Oklahoma, where free public preschool accounts for most preschool programming, costs of early care and education increased 33% overall from 2008 to 2018, with spikes of up to 55% for infants and toddlers. And from 2005 to 2018, 43% of all licensed early care and education providers in Oklahoma closed, leaving parents of children aged 0-3 without care and children behind in their early development (Early Care & Education Consortium, 2021).
  • California saw the number of home-based-providers decrease by almost 30% from 2008 to 2016, largely due to the increase in state funded 4-year-old Preschool programs. An Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC) analysis shows that if 4-year-olds are pulled out of their current settings as part of the expansion, providers anticipate having to raise prices in the 0-3 space by ~40% (Early Care & Education Consortium, 2021).
  • In New York City, a system many see as the model for universal preschool, one study points to as much as a 20% reduction of available infant and toddler care after the implementation of universal 4-year-old preschool in 2014. Furthermore, all lost slots were found to be in high poverty areas, and the decline was not offset by an increase in provision in the home day care market (Early Care & Education Consortium, 2021).

Additionally, public preschool via a mixed-delivery system better serves the needs of parents in the workforce by offering full-day and full-year preschool services to children that match the work schedules of parents.

For an explainer video on the challenges faced in the expansion of public preschool, watch this video by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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Author

Director of Early Childhood Policy & Practice

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