Advocacy to Fund Early Education for All

Promise the Children supports universal early education for all from birth to kindergarten. We support  extended day care, open year round,  to accommodate working parents. By giving all of our youngest citizens good preparation for kindergarten, they will develop their potential, and contribute to our society.  Together they will build the future stability of our democracy.

Universal early education is essential for children to have an equal opportunity to learn

  • 65% of parents with children under 5 years old are in the work force (Kids Count Data taken from U.S. Census). The low and minimum wages that most parents earn cannot cover the cost of licensed, regulated early education or day care.
  • Large numbers of children are not enrolled in licensed day care. Too many parents must place their children in unlicensed, unregulated child care where they may experience neglect, abuse, trauma and stress that are exceedingly difficult and may be impossible to heal.
  • The brain of a growing child develops prior to his/her entry into kindergarten. By denying free quality early education, many children fail to learn enough to cope with kindergarten and grade school, and gradually they fall far behind.

Kids Count Date Center estimates that 4.3 million children found no space in a preschool in 2013.

Results (The Power to End Poverty) estimates that only 1 in 7 eligible children living in poverty receives financial assistance for their child to attend an existing preschool. Most likely they must rely on unlicensed and often unsafe childcare situations.

Preschool Programs for Low-Income Families

Head Start

As part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty announced in the 1960s, Jule Meyer Sugarman, a Unitarian Universalist, developed Head Start and became its first Administrator. The program grew to serve 560,000 three- and four-year olds during Jule’s five-year tenure, providing children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs.

With the support of both democratic and republican Presidents, Head Start has grown to be culturally responsive to the communities served and now has both bilingual and bicultural programming. Early Head Start, initiated in 1997, serves infants and toddlers up to age 3, provides support and information for parent(s), and offers parent involvement in the program. Head Start now serves one million preschool children each year. This is a great start but more money must invested in Head Start to give opportunity to our Pre-K children.

Who pays for Head Start? The federal government pays, and there is no charge for this service. However, Congress votes annually on funding, and recently funding has been cut, decreasing the number of children who are served.

What are the fees for Head Start? There are no fees, however, the parent(s) or caretaker(s), and communities must contribute volunteer hours and make other donations as a nonfederal share. In general, families are eligible if their income is 100% of the poverty line or less. There are exceptions that include families with disabled children.


State-Funded Preschool Programs

In addition to federal Head Start, many states run their own preschool program with financial help from many different sources including the federal Child Care Development Block Grants Act (CCDBG) that President Obama reauthorized in 2014. CCDBG is the largest source of federal funding to provide quality childcare assistance for low-income families. However, the block grant is dependent on funding that is voted by Congress annually, and recently money has been cut.

Who pays for state pre-school programs? This is very difficult to determine because the money comes from so many different sources including CCDBG. Here are some links that might help to answer questions about early learning and early success in state programs.

Who is eligible for state preschool programs? This too is difficult to answer because each state decides independently whether to regulate eligibility based on federal poverty guidelines or state minimum wage guidelines. This source may provide information on eligibility in each state.

How Can You Help Increase Access to Preschool for Low-Income Children?

To increase availability of preschool education for our nation’s children, Promise the Children supports more funding for Head Start and CCDBG. Our particular focus is on funding preschool for 3 and 4 year olds of families living in poverty.

Please support our efforts to improve access to preschool for children of low-income families. Sign up for our action alerts to get more information on actions you can take. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to stay informed about issues pertaining to child poverty.

More Advocacy Resources for Universal Pre-K


Tell us your stories about preschool experiences:
how preschool helped prepare your child, grandchild, niece or nephew, etc. for kindergarten and grade school, so that we can use these (whether with attribution or anonymously) in our outreach materials.

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