2.0 Policy Package

High-Quality, Accessible Pre-K

Early childhood education is an essential step to access real opportunities later in life — from successfully graduating high school to staying healthy. It also provides parents a safe place for kids to learn, play, and grow. When all families have access to high-quality pre-K, more children have the opportunity to succeed as they begin their educational journeys.

The Quality Pre-K Challenge 
  • Less than half (48%) of children in poverty are school-ready at 5 years old, compared with 75% of children from moderate- or high-income households.
  • Not all pre-K programs meet high-quality standards. The National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) has identified ten quality standards benchmarks that identify the minimum policies that are needed to support optimal child outcomes. Additional equity-focused policies for cities include access, demographic data collection and a city’s dedicated local revenue source.
  • While the number of local pre-K programs is growing, many high-quality programs are reaching too few children. The minimal threshold enrollment should be more than 30 percent of the population of preschoolers.
A Healthy Solution: High-Quality, Accessible Pre-K
  • Provides a Healthy Start in Life — Children in High-Quality, Accessible Pre-K programs are more likely to go to a doctor, receive immunizations and screenings, and access dental care.
  • Sets Children Up for Long-Term Success — High-quality pre-K programs lead to increased high school graduation rates, higher earnings, provides linkages to early intervention and reductions in crime and teen pregnancy.
  • Provides a Safe Place for Children — When designed as part of a comprehensive early care and educational system, pre-K programs provide working parents a safe place for their children; 65% of mothers with children under age 6 work.
  • Investing in Pre-K Pays Dividends — High-Quality, Accessible Pre-K programs are a wise financial investment, with one leading economist estimating a return of $7-$10 for every dollar spent.

CityHealth partners with the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) in support of this policy.


The state of high-quality, accessible pre-K policies in big US cities

67 out of 75 cities received a medal for high-quality, accessible pre-K policies, including 22 golds, 14 silver, and 31 bronze.

Measuring cities’ High-Quality, Accessible Pre-K policies

How will we award high-quality, accessible pre-K medals?Bronze medalBronze MedalSilver medalSilver MedalGold medalGold Medal
Policy meets 2 out of 3 criteria* (access, local funding, and equity data) and meets at least 4 quality benchmarksRequired for this MedalRequired for this MedalRequired for this Medal
Policy meets 8 out of 10 NIEER quality benchmarksNot Required for this MedalRequired for this MedalRequired for this Medal
Policy meets 9 out of 10 NIEER quality benchmarksNot Required for this MedalNot Required for this MedalRequired for this Medal

*Criteria include:

  • Access: Establishes a 30% access threshold for pre-K programs. Quality learning can only make an impact if children have access to the programming. 
  • Equity: City collects demographic data that allows local leaders and residents see who in their community is receiving services. 
  • Local Funding: Local funding is included in a city’s pre-K program. Pre-K programs with a local funding source often mean that cities have a stake in the quality, access, and equitable delivery of their pre-K programs.

Cities with High-Quality, Accessible Pre-K Laws