- The U.S. Department of Education awarded $3 million to eight government organizations to support feasibility pilots that will assess innovative funding strategies for expanding preschool access and improve education outcomes for the youngest students.
- In announcing the grants, the department said the Pay for Success strategy means the government agrees to pay for “concrete, measurable outcomes” and only turns over taxpayer money if they actually materialize.
- Grantees will have to identify outcome measures to track, and several expect high-quality preschool will reduce the need for special education — though the department said its grants require safeguards to protect the rights of students with disabilities to ensure they are not denied services to boost outcomes data.
There is widespread political will to expand preschool opportunities for three- and four-year-olds. Several major cities, including Chicago and New York, have universal preschool initiatives that aim to enroll every child in a high-quality program. New research from Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman, however, indicates these efforts miss the critical birth-to-three years.
Heckman, a professor at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues from Chicago and the University of Southern California, found a 13% rate of return for dollars invested in high-quality birth-to-five childcare programs in North Carolina. They studied original data collected in the 1970s and followed outcomes of participating children as they aged through their 30s. While high-quality preschool has been shown to have a significant impact, Heckman said most of children’s cognitive development when it comes to IQ happens by age three.