Stateline Story

State Spending On Early Childhood Programs Skyrockets, Report Finds

  • December 20, 2000
  • By Stateline Staff

The amount states spent of their own money on programs for young children nearly doubled between 1998 and 2000, a bi-annual review of early childhood and family programs has found.

The report, titled Map and Track, was released Wednesday by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), a research institute of Columbia University that focuses on children under six -- the population most at risk of being poor.

Rather than detail state efforts to provide basic child care, Map and Track concentrates on programs that improve family well-being and prepare children for school.

Specifically, the NCCP evaluates the states in three areas: on efforts to foster better parenting and promote children's educational and physical development, on statewide programs to coordinate these efforts, and on the adoption of policies to help low-income families improve their financial circumstances. The report does not count federal dollars states are given for programs such as Head Start.

Overall, state spending on programs for young children and their families rose to $3.7 billion in 2000, an 87 percent increase over 1998, the NCCP reports. Programs for the youngest children -- infants and toddlers -- saw an even higher rate of investment, a more than twofold increase between 1998 and 2000, from $108 million to $226 million. But infant-and-toddler care still accounts for only eight percent of total state spending in these areas, the study finds.

The NCCP points to four states -- California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont -- which its says provide the most comprehensive supports for families with young children.

In contrast, five states -- Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming -- fund no child development and family support programs.

"Young children's chances of having their needs met depend on the state in which they live," the authors wrote.

The NCCP report is the third this year to tout Minnesota's efforts to promote healthy families. In April, the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Minnesota number one in its annual Kids Count report. The Land of 10,000 Lakes also received top honors in a new study by the United Way of America that judged states based on their capacity to care for the disadvantaged.

The NCCP highlights Minnesota's high tax threshold, which excuses low-income families from paying state income tax. Researchers also note its generous health care coverage for low-income children and their parents, its programs for infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers, and its burgeoning network to track programs statewide.

California's income tax threshold is the highest in the country. Its eligibility limits for child care and health insurance are also among the nation's most generous. In addition, the state has launched a new, statewide program for young children. In 1998, voters created the initiative and agreed to a $.50-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund it.

The NCCP found that spending varied widely among the states. The District of Columbia and five states -- California, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Oklahoma -- spend more than $2000 per child under six on educational development and family support programs. Fourteen states, however, spend $20 per child or less.

"Only a small percentage of eligible children are served by many of the programs described in this report," the authors wrote.

Other findings include:

  • In addition to California, Kentucky and South Carolina have recently implemented new comprehensive early childhood initiatives -- large scale, statewide efforts similar to North Carolina's much heralded Smart Start program.
  • Eight other states have begun such efforts: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia.
  • Twelve states have added programs for infants and toddlers since 1998. Seven states have started programs for very young kids for the first time: Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia.
  • Forty-two states and the District of Columbia now fund pre-kindergarten, including those that supplement the federal Head Start program with state funds.
  • The eight states with no pre-k are: Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming,
    Only three states and the District of Columbia offer universal pre-k: Georgia, New York and Oklahoma.

The authors note that programs for preschoolers are often hard sells in state legislatures. But they find hope in the increased activity of the last few years. The new investments and efforts to coordinate programs indicate a growing recognition among policy makers of the importance of early childhood and the need for programs to support the increasing numbers of single parents who have entered the workforce, the report says.

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The amount states spent of their own money on programs for young children nearly doubled between 1998 and 2000, a bi-annual review of early childhood and family programs has found.

The report, titled Map and Track, was released Wednesday by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), a research institute of Columbia University that focuses on children under six -- the population most at risk of being poor.

Rather than detail state efforts to provide basic child care, Map and Track concentrates on programs that improve family well-being and prepare children for school.

Specifically, the NCCP evaluates the states in three areas: on efforts to foster better parenting and promote children's educational and physical development, on statewide programs to coordinate these efforts, and on the adoption of policies to help low-income families improve their financial circumstances. The report does not count federal dollars states are given for programs such as Head Start.

Overall, state spending on programs for young children and their families rose to $3.7 billion in 2000, an 87 percent increase over 1998, the NCCP reports. Programs for the youngest children -- infants and toddlers -- saw an even higher rate of investment, a more than twofold increase between 1998 and 2000, from $108 million to $226 million. But infant-and-toddler care still accounts for only eight percent of total state spending in these areas, the study finds.

The NCCP points to four states -- California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont -- which its says provide the most comprehensive supports for families with young children.

In contrast, five states -- Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming -- fund no child development and family support programs.

"Young children's chances of having their needs met depend on the state in which they live," the authors wrote.

The NCCP report is the third this year to tout Minnesota's efforts to promote healthy families. In April, the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Minnesota number one in its annual Kids Count report. The Land of 10,000 Lakes also received top honors in a new study by the United Way of America that judged states based on their capacity to care for the disadvantaged.

The NCCP highlights Minnesota's high tax threshold, which excuses low-income families from paying state income tax. Researchers also note its generous health care coverage for low-income children and their parents, its programs for infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers, and its burgeoning network to track programs statewide.

California's income tax threshold is the highest in the country. Its eligibility limits for child care and health insurance are also among the nation's most generous. In addition, the state has launched a new, statewide program for young children. In 1998, voters created the initiative and agreed to a $.50-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund it.

The NCCP found that spending varied widely among the states. The District of Columbia and five states -- California, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Oklahoma -- spend more than $2000 per child under six on educational development and family support programs. Fourteen states, however, spend $20 per child or less.

"Only a small percentage of eligible children are served by many of the programs described in this report," the authors wrote.

Other findings include:
  • In addition to California, Kentucky and South Carolina have recently implemented new comprehensive early childhood initiatives -- large scale, statewide efforts similar to North Carolina's much heralded Smart Start program.
  • Eight other states have begun such efforts: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia.
  • Twelve states have added programs for infants and toddlers since 1998. Seven states have started programs for very young kids for the first time: Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia.
  • Forty-two states and the District of Columbia now fund pre-kindergarten, including those that supplement the federal Head Start program with state funds. The eight states with no pre-k are: Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming,
  • Only three states and the District of Columbia offer universal pre-k: Georgia, New York and Oklahoma.

    The authors note that programs for preschoolers are often hard sells in state legislatures. But they find hope in the increased activity of the last few years. The new investments and efforts to coordinate programs indicate a growing recognition among policy makers of the importance of early childhood and the need for programs to support the increasing numbers of single parents who have entered the workforce, the report says.
  • Original Stateline Story

    Tags: Education