National Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education Report

In 2018, the National Academies released the final report in a three-part series (Transforming the Early Childhood Workforce for Children Birth through Age Eight (2015) was the first in the series and Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures followed in 2017)

The financing report is the third in the series.  The committee’s report, Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education (2018), makes the case that funding for early care and education is both inadequate and ineffective. For one thing, families struggle to pay for care, often opting out of care altogether or seeking lower-quality options than what would be most beneficial for their child’s development. At the same time caregivers struggle to make ends meet on the low salaries their jobs provide, much less pursue the higher education opportunities many experts say would make them more effective at their jobs.

Chapters of this report specifically address the current financing for early care and education around a highly qualified workforce and affordable and equitable access as well as ensuring high quality across settings. The report includes an estimate of the cost of high-quality care and education as well as a future vision around the financing of early care and education. There are 10 recommendations within this report which impact the early childhood workforce but the three recommendations that we would like to highlight include:

Recommendation 2: All children and families should have access to affordable, high-quality early care and education. ECE access should not be contingent on the characteristics of their parents, such as family income or work status.

  • 2a. ECE programs and financing mechanisms (with the exception of employer-based programs) should not set eligibility standards that require parental employment, job training, education, or other activities.
  • 2b. Federal and state governments should set uniform family payment standards that increase progressively across income groups and are applied if the ECE program requires a family contribution (payment).
  • 2c. The share of total ECE system costs that are not covered by family payments should be covered by a combination of institutional support to providers who meet quality standards and assistance directly to families that are based on uniform income eligibility standards.

Recommendation 6: A coalition of public and private funders should support the development and implementation of the first round of local-, state-, and national-level strategic business plans to guide transitions toward a reformed financing structure for high-quality early care and education.

Recommendation 7: Because compensation for the early care and education (ECE) workforce is not currently commensurate with desired qualifications, the ECE workforce should be provided with financial assistance to increase practitioners’ knowledge and competencies and to achieve required qualifications through higher-education programs, credentialing programs, and other forms of professional learning. The incumbent ECE workforce should bear no cost for increasing practitioners’ knowledge base, competencies, and qualifications, and the entering workforce should be assisted to limit costs to a reasonable proportion of postgraduate earnings, with a goal of maintaining and further promoting diversity in the pipeline of ECE professionals.

  • 7a. Existing grant-based resources should be leveraged, and states and localities, along with colleges and universities, should work together to provide additional resources and supports to the incumbent workforce as practitioners further their qualifications as professionals in the ECE eld.
  • 7b. States and the federal government should provide financial and other appropriate supports to limit to a reasonable proportion of expected postgraduate earnings any tuition and fee expenses that are incurred by prospective ECE professionals and are not covered by existing financial aid programs.

Recommendation 8: States and the federal government should provide grants to institutions and systems of postsecondary education to develop faculty and early care and education (ECE) programs and to align ECE curricula with the science of child development and early learning and with principles of high-quality professional practice. Federal funding should be leveraged through grants that provide incentives to states, colleges, and universities to ensure higher-education programs are of high quality and aligned with workforce needs, including evaluating and monitoring student outcomes, curricula, and processes.

View Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education (2018) Report highlights here.

View the Report, Briefing Slides and Webinar here.