High-quality Preschool Ed a Research-Based Policy Winner

by William J. Mathis, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado Boulder, November 2012  

Publicly supported, high-quality preschool education is among the most successful and well-documented of education reforms.  Four out of every five states provide preschool in some format or for some students, and nearly 75% of four-year-olds and just over half of three-year-olds have some form of preschool experience, ranging from day-care to high quality educational programs.  However, in inflation-adjusted dollares, overall funding per child served is lower than a decade ago.

There is near-universal agreement that high-quality preschool programs more than pay for themselves in economic and social benefits.  In reviewing the various cost-benefit studies, the RANS Corporation found that preschool education returns as much as $17.07 for each dollar invested, although the size of the return varies based on the nature of the program and how costs and benefits are calculated.

No study found negative return.  Professor W. Steven Barnett, of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers, concludes that even if the programs only delivered one-tenth of their proven outcomes, they would still be economically justified.  The Committee for Economic Development found the overall positive evidence to be so persuasive that they recomment early education as an international economic development tool.

Read entire "Preschool Education" section of William Mathis' brief at The National Education Policy Center.

Read or download all 10 sections of William Mathis' NEPC brief "Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking" in which Mathis "takes up important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research.  Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations for policymakers are based on the latest scholarship."