High-quality early childhood education (ECE) is important to the rapid development that happens in the first five years of a child’s life and has long-lasting benefits well into adulthood. But many children, largely Black and Latino, are not given access to nor are being served by high-quality, state-funded ECE programs, according to our first-of-its-kind analysis. In Young Learners, Missed Opportunities: Ensuring That Black and Latino Children Have Access to High-Quality State-Funded Preschool, we sought to answer two questions:

  • Do Black and Latino students get access to these programs?
  • And are these programs high-quality?

Out of the 26 states analyzed, not one provided both high-quality and high-access ECE for 3- and 4-year-old Black and Latino children during the 2017-2018 school year.

When exploring both access and quality, Ed Trust found:

  • Only 1% of Latino children and 4% of Black children in the 26 states analyzed were enrolled in high-quality state-funded preschool programs.
  • In 11 of 26 states, Latino children are underrepresented in state-funded preschool programs. In three of those states, so are Black children.
  • Access is lower for Black and Latino 3-year-olds than for Black and Latino 4-year-olds.
  • Far too few state-funded preschool programs collect and report race and ethnicity data.

“Our data is devastating. No state provides the two essential elements for a strong early start for our nation’s Black and Latino children — quality and access. Despite overwhelming research on the value of high-quality preschool, states continue to willfully neglect our youngest students of color.”

Carrie Gillispie, Ed.D,, senior analyst for P-12 policy

Of the 26 states analyzed:

  • 13 states enrolled fewer than one-quarter of their Latino children in state-funded preschool programs, and
  • 10 states enrolled fewer than one-quarter of their Black children.

The report found that, although well-intentioned, some states with “universal” programs lack sufficient program quality. For example, DC’s program reaches nearly all of its Black 3- and 4-year-olds and 61% of its Latino 3- and 4-year-olds, making it particularly strong on access. But it was rated only 3 out of 10 for quality. On the other hand, states with high quality often serve very few Black and Latino children. For instance, Mississippi’s program was rated a 9 out of 10 for quality, but served only 1% of its Latino children and 4% of its Black children.

Georgia, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, however, proved to be bright spots with relatively high access and high quality for Black and Latino 4-year-olds.

  • Georgia serves more than 60% of the state’s substantial number of Black and Latino 4-year-olds, and its program meets 8 of 10 of NIEER’s quality benchmarks
  • Oklahoma provides access to just over 60% of its Black and Latino 4-year-olds, and
  • West Virginia provides access to 47% of its Latino 4-year-olds and 75% of its Black 4-year-olds and both programs met 9 out of 10 of NIEER’s quality benchmarks.

“Over and over again, we see children who deserve these important learning opportunities the most are being shut out due to systemic barriers, which can have a cascading effect throughout their K-12 education and beyond. State leaders must work to ensure that, among other key learning opportunities, their states’ 3- and 4-year-old Black and Latino children have access to high-quality ECE as it provides a solid foundation for prolonged academic and personal achievement.”

Heather Rieman, director of P-12 policy.

To improve access for Black and Latino children, Ed Trust recommends state leaders:

  1. Publish meaningful equity data and use it to track progress
  2. Prioritize expansion in historically underserved communities
  3. Spread the word to Black and Latino families
  4. Make enrollment easy
  5. Offer hours and locations that align with the schedules and commutes of working families

To improve quality for all children, and especially for Black and Latino children, Ed Trust recommends state leaders:

  1. Meet quality benchmarks, including making professional development meaningful for Black and Latino children and their families
  2. Eliminate suspensions and expulsions
  3. Support dual language learners
  4. Support families
  5. Diversify the workforce

“The first years of a child’s life are critical to the socio-emotional and educational success of students because they provide the foundation for all subsequent learning and development. Black children deserve accessible high-quality early childhood education, yet too many are shut out. States must work to provide both quality and access.”

– Tobeka G. Green, president and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute.