Map shows states with best and worst early childhood education programs


Where parents live can have a major effect on their access to quality early education programs, their affordability, and what they offer to children’s growing young minds. There’s no doubt that the pandemic disruptions to early childhood education and care programs have led to industry-wide issues — and for parents trying to navigate a patchwork of programs, the stress can be intense.

For parents wondering how their states compare to others, WalletHub determined the best states for early childhood education programs and which states are the worst.

First of all: according to WalletHubpre-school enrollment fell by nearly 300,000 students in the 2020-21 school year, “which experts say has erased a decade of progress and increased educational inequality”.

Research shows that 3- and 4-year-olds belong in preschool. Children who go to preschool or enroll in early childhood education programs are more likely to complete high school, go to college, and outperform their peers on short-term tests . The United States saves about $10 for every dollar spent on early childhood education. In other words, pre-K works.

Other studies suggest that preschool programs help by providing health benefits to children, such as meals, vaccinations, and health services that screen for vision and hearing problems, among other developmental issues. health.

Yet, early childhood education programs are not the same across the country, as there is very little federal funding for the programs. While there is some funding, there isn’t enough to make the industry — which is defined by high operating costs and razor-thin profit margins — affordable for many American parents.

A universal childcare and pre-K program has been proposed as part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The program would have poured millions and millions of dollars into child care centers, pre-K programs and workers, and it would have capped costs for parents. However, this plan was cancelled.

Because there is no major federal plan, some states place more emphasis (i.e. money) on these programs than others. So, WalletHub wanted to know how each state was doing compared to the others.

To classify states, WalletHub compared the 50 states plus the District of Columbia using three key dimensions: To access, which included the share of school districts that offer state pre-K programs, the number of eligible children enrolled, and the prevalence of wait lists, for example. Quality also considered – income requirements for state pre-K eligibility, school safety plans, and audits, among other factors. The third measure was resources & economic support, which included how much was spent per child enrolled in school, how much the state spends on Head Start programs per child, how much childcare costs as a share of family income, and more.

Interestingly, there is not a single state that achieves first place in every category. Still, there are some fascinating takeaways. For example, Minnesota has one of the lowest maximum income requirements for pre-K eligibility in the state at $9,155, which is 4.6 times less than North Carolina, which is set at $42. $482. That means a family can earn up to $42,482 in North Carolina and still access state-run pre-K programs — in Minnesota, that income threshold is much, much lower. (Not surprisingly, Minnesota’s programs rank much, much lower than North Carolina‘s.)

Here are the best states for early childhood education programs overall:




4. District of Columbia

5. Rhode Island


7. Oregon

8. Vermont

9. West Virginia

10. New Mexico

Here are the worst states for early childhood education programs:


43. South Dakota

44. New York



47.New Hampshire



50. North Dakota


If you want to know where your state stands on the list and where it stands in all key metrics, check out the full report at WalletHub.


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