ERIC Identifier: ED389471
Publication Date: 1995-12-00
Author: Svestka, Sherlie S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Financing Preschool for All Children. ERIC Digest.
Many countries have already achieved or substantially met the universal preschool goal which U.S. states set as a target for the year 2000. Generally, the Ministry of Education in other countries provides free, public kindergarten or similar educational programs for most children aged 5, as do most U.S. school districts. However, many other countries, along with some U.S. school districts, also include children at ages 4 and 3 in their provisions for public education. In drawing education parallels internationally, comparisons of other countries with U.S. states are more relevant than with the nation as a whole. Individual U.S. states are comparable economically to the nations (other than the U.S., which is a member) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (Moss, 1990; OECD, 1993). This digest compares the efforts of U.S. states and OECD countries to finance center- and facility-based preschool.
ACCESS TO PUBLICLY FINANCED EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS
Two OECD countries considered very successful in providing almost universal access to public preschool are France and Italy. France established free public education in 1881, including preschool as the first level. Today in France, 100 percent of children ages 3 through 5 attend preschool, most in public programs. In Italy, municipal governments began opening preschools in the 1950s, and by 1968 the national government established free preschools for virtually all children. Today in Italy, about 92 percent of children ages 3 through 5 attend preschool, most in public programs.
The following statistics on public preschool enrollment have been reported to OECD or the European Union. Data by single year of age and private enrollments are not available for all countries (GAO, 1995; Moss, 1990; OECD, 1993).
* DENMARK AND GERMANY. 80 percent of 5-year-olds, 70 percent of 4-year-olds, and 30 percent of 3-year-olds.
* UNITED KINGDOM AND THE NETHERLANDS. Compulsory schooling at age 5; almost all 4-year-olds also attend.
* BELGIUM. About 95 percent of children aged 3-5.
* LUXEMBOURG. Nearly all 4-year-old children.
* GREECE. 65-70 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds.
* SPAIN. Over 90 percent of 4- to 5-year-olds.
According to data from the 1990 decennial U.S. census, participation rates in preschool, including both public and private programs, are 81 percent of 5-year-olds, 50 percent of 4-year-olds, and 30 percent of 3-year-olds. Some states have achieved considerably higher rates of enrollment than these national averages by providing coverage through public schools. Income is the best predictor of participation, and most poor children are not enrolled (GAO, 1994). Those poor children who do participate are mostly in public programs, such as Head Start and preschool programs in public schools (GAO, 1993). These percentages provide a rough indication of the need for greater access to preschool programs.
COMPARATIVE WEALTH AND EDUCATIONAL EXPENDITURES OF U.S.
STATES AND OECD COUNTRIES
Twenty-two U.S. states had a higher per capita income (PCI) than Switzerland, the OECD country with the highest PCI; 38 states had a higher PCI than Luxembourg and Germany; 45 states had a higher PCI than Australia, Japan, Sweden and Denmark. All 50 states had a higher PCI than New Zealand, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Turkey (Salganik et al., 1993).
The state and country per-student expenditures for education for preprimary through secondary levels, cited in the report mentioned above, reflect the public investment in each student in the education system. Of the 22 U.S. states that had higher per capita income than Switzerland, only 3 spent more per student at all levels combined, preprimary through secondary, in 1988. Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark all spent more than the U.S. national average, while Italy spent more than six U.S. states.
MULTIPLE FUNDING SOURCES
In Denmark, for example, the early childhood program is financed by multiple sources, including: (1) two block grants to municipal governments; (2) revenues collected through local taxes; and (3) parent contributions, which can be only as high as 30 percent of the actual per-child program cost.
In France, teacher salaries are a national expenditure through the Ministry of Education, while local governments provide for facilities, lunches, auxiliary staff, and after-school care. Parents may pay a nominal share of some costs, such as for meals and after-school and vacation care (GAO 1995).
In U.S. states, public school kindergarten programs are similar to programs in many OECD countries. Funding for the kindergarten year, like other years of compulsory schooling, involves multiple levels of government financing of various aspects of the schooling. Some preschool classes in U.S. public schools are also financed through multiple levels of government, but there are two major differences in this funding compared to funding in some OECD countries:
* Most U.S. public programs are targeted exclusively for the poorest children and for disabled children, while in other countries all children are included in the regular preschool classes, and children with various special needs receive additional benefits.
* In other countries, financing is complementary so that various sources fund different parts of a single, comprehensive program or target different ages entirely, thus avoiding the fragmentation and conflicting eligibility requirements of publicly financed U.S. programs, almost all of which are targeting various qualifying individuals in essentially the same population of poor children.
PRIVATE SECTOR EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS
The study found that 76 percent of 511 child care centers and preschool classrooms were rated less than good quality. Further, "...most U.S. child care is mediocre in quality, sufficiently poor to interfere with children's emotional and intellectual development." The conclusion reached by the study was that market forces "constrain the cost of child care and at the same time depress the quality of care provided to children" (Helburn et al., 1995).
The study also found that sites operated by public agencies, such as public schools, sites receiving direct public funding, and employer-sponsored sites generally provided higher quality programs than sites that did not have access to financial support other than parent fees (Helburn et al., 1995).
Helburn, S., M. Culkin, J. Morris, N. Mocan, C. Howes, L. Phillipsen, D. Bryant, R. Clifford, D. Cryer, E. Peisner-Feinberg, M. Burchinal, S. Kagan, and J. Rustici. (1995). EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: COST, QUALITY, AND CHILD OUTCOMES IN CHILD CARE CENTERS. Denver, CO: University of Colorado. PS 023 512.
Moss, P. (1990). CHILDCARE IN THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES 1985-1990. Brussels: Commission of the European Communities.
Richardson, G., and E. Marx. (1989). A WELCOME FOR EVERY CHILD--HOW FRANCE ACHIEVES QUALITY IN CHILD CARE: PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR THE UNITED STATES. New York: French-American Foundation. ED 316 314.
Salganik, L.H., R.P. Phelps, L. Bianchi, D. Nohara, and T.M. Smith. (1993). EDUCATION IN STATES AND NATIONS: INDICATORS COMPARING U.S. STATES WITH THE OECD COUNTRIES IN 1988. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. ED 366 615.
United States General Accounting Office (USGAO). (1993). POOR PRESCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN: NUMBERS INCREASE BUT MOST NOT IN PRESCHOOL. GAO/HEHS-93-111BR. Washington, DC: Author. ED 365 426.
United States General Accounting Office (USGAO). (1994). EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS: PARENT EDUCATION AND INCOME BEST PREDICT PARTICIPATION. GAO/HEHS-95-47. Washington, DC: Author. ED 381 247.
United States General Accounting Office. (USGAO). (1995). EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS: PROMOTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUNG CHILDREN IN DENMARK, FRANCE, AND ITALY. GAO/HEHS-95-45BR. Washington, DC: Author. ED 381 270.