Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

I recently posted an item – Rethink Public Financing of Early Education and Care – that looked at funding the education and care of young children in this country. Another report, this one from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, also offers an analysis of funding and makes recommendations for increasing funding and coordination of public dollars designated for early education and care. As I noted in the earlier blog post, the financing of early education and care in this country is a complex mix of private and public dollars, with much of it coming from high fees for parents and low pay for early educators – and much of it built as a service working parents, not a birthright for young children.

The NIEER policy brief – “Improving Public Financing for Early Learning Programs” – describes a “patchwork of funding streams and programs” and makes recommendations for improving the public financing of early education and care.

“It should go without saying that developing more reliable, well-considered revenue streams for early learning programs is a good thing,” the report concludes. “They not only maintain enrollment and program quality, they also provide the predictability that is essential to ensuring continuous improvement and a high level of program effectiveness. The lack of cohesive system-building that has typified the expansion of early childhood education in the United States has perpetuated the patchwork of preschool policies and finance mechanisms at all levels. This likely resulted in fewer children served that had a more systemic approach been used. And, it has delayed the collaboration and adaptation of successful approaches across programs that can lead to enhanced program effectiveness.”

Included among NIEER’s recommendations are these:

Massachusetts is making some progress. For instance, the state’s Department of Early Education and Care is working to ensure that public dollars flow only to programs that meet certain quality standards.

NIERR also offers a primer on the various funding sources for early education and care:

The bottom line is that high-quality early education and care is good for children, good for families and good for society as a whole. “Increased public investment in early learning,” the NIEER policy brief states, “is a pro-growth strategy not inconsistent with greater fiscal restraint.”