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Preschool and Child Care

Pre-K Across the Country

The state of pre-kindergarten varies across the country. This national snapshot is a good starting point for understanding what’s happening in pre-K right now.


  • State-funded pre-K programs currently serve just 22 percent of four year olds and 3 percent of three year olds in the U.S.
  • Nationally, about 70 percent of children in state-funded pre-K are served in a school setting. For- and non-profit childcare centers, Head Start centers, and faith-based providers serve the other 30 percent.
  • Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma are the only states that currently make pre-K available to all four year olds.
  • The District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, and West Virginia have multi-year plans to implement pre-K for all four year olds. (The District of Columbia and Illinois have plans that include three year olds as well.)
  • Twelve states with state-funded pre-K do not offer their programs to three year olds.
  • Twelve states have no state-funded pre-K program at all.


  • States’ spending on pre-k programs varies widely, from $1,600 per pre-K child in South Carolina to more than $10,000 per child in New Jersey.
  • Nationwide, state spending on each pre-K child averages about $3,600, or less than one-third of the average dollars spent on each public-school student in K-12.
  • Twelve states — Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — and the District of Columbia include pre-K as part of their school funding formulas (as of FY2008). This means that at least a portion of pre-K spending is tied to the same funding increases and decreases as K-12 education, though some of these states place limits on the total funding amount available through the formula.


  • Seventeen states currently meet eight or more of the ten quality-checklist criteria for its pre-K program, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
  • Ten states currently meet five or fewer of NIEER’s quality-checklist criteria.
  • Two states — Alabama and North Carolina mdash; currently meet all ten of NIEER’s quality benchmarks.


  • About 73 percent of pre-k teachers in state-funded programs report that they have a bachelor’s degree (or higher degree).
  • About 56 percent of pre-k teachers report that they hold a teaching certificate from their state designed to include teaching children younger than five years.
  • Twenty-one states do not require all of their state-funded pre-K teachers to have a four-year college degree. Eight of these states do not require any state pre-K teachers to have a bachelor’s degree.
  • The average pre-K teacher earns less than half of what the average elementary school teacher earns. About 70 percent of pre-K teachers report earning a salary below 200% of federal poverty guidelines.
  • Pre-K teachers are, to a great extent, reflective of the children they serve. For instance, 71 percent of classrooms where a majority of the children are African American have pre-K teachers who are also African American, and 46 percent of pre-K classrooms with a majority of Latino children have Latino teachers.
Pre-K Now. (2008). National Snapshot: Pre-K Across the Country [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from
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Preschool and Child Care