Research shows that investments in high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs for children from birth to school entry promote both social and cognitive skills that prepare children for success in kindergarten and yield long-term gains in outcomes, ranging from improved third-grade reading skills to high school graduation rates. These programs take place in a range of settings and include pre-kindergarten, subsidized child care, home visitation for expectant and new parents, preschool special education, and early intervention for children with special needs. However, in most states, ECE programs are administered and funded through multiple state agencies and funding streams. As a result, they often offer varying levels of access and quality, which sometimes results in duplicative administrative costs.
Governors can play an important role in building a coordinated ECE system that offers high-quality services, supports consistent goals for young children and their families, and makes efficient use of public funds. The NGA Center can support such systems-building efforts by assisting states in:
- Building longitudinal early childhood data systems that link ECE data from various programs to each other and to K-12 data systems;
- Redesigning state governance and financing strategies to increase ECE program access and quality and bring greater coherence and coordination among different ECE programs and funding streams; and
- Developing a multi-sector strategy that involves higher education, workforce development, and ECE providers to grow the size and quality of the ECE workforce.