2017 State of the State Addresses on Early Care and Education

Blog Post
June 26, 2017

According to a new poll from the First Five Years Fund, investing in quality child care and early education continues to receive bipartisan support. This month, the National Women’s Law Center released a document with excerpts related to early care and education from 2017 gubernatorial state of the state addresses. Below are a few highlights from the addresses and a look at what progress states have made so far.

Child Care

A few governors proposed increasing state funding in order to improve the quality of child care centers and help families afford better quality child care.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed doubling the state’s child care tax credit to make child care more affordable for 200,000 middle-class families. The governor proposed a new Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit that would supplement the existing New York State Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and more than double the benefit for families with an income between $60,000 to $150,000. The average benefit per household would increase from $169 to $376, with the total program cost at $42 million. The Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit was enacted as part of the FY 2018 budget agreement in April.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper proposed to reinstate the state’s Child Care and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which would benefit more than 200,000 families. The Child Care and Dependent Care Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit that helps working families pay for child care or the care of a qualifying individual. The credit was eliminated in 2013 and is not included in the state Senate and House budget for FY 2017-19. It is currently unclear if Governor Cooper will sign the budget agreement or not.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott proposed a $7.5 million funding increase to the Child Care Financial Assistance Program. This program assists eligible families with the cost of child care, and the budget would allow an additional 500 low-income families to qualify for assistance. This is only one of five items in Governor Scott’s FY 2018 Budget agenda focused on expanding early education in Vermont. Other items include his proposed $600,000 in grants to develop shared services systems for child care providers and $500,000 in grants to fund innovative child care pilot programs at the municipal level.


Governors also offered proposals dedicated to expanding access to pre-K programs.

The success of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program can be largely attributed to the state’s continued investment in pre-K. Former Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley steadily increased funding for pre-K while in office, and Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program consistently ranks as one of the nation’s top pre-K programs. In January, former Governor Bentley proposed a $20 million increase to fund 160 more pre-K classrooms and enroll over 2,800 additional children. The final FY 2018 Budget passed in May increases funding for pre-K by $13 million and adds 122 new First Class Pre-K classrooms for the upcoming school year. Bentley also proposed a “Pre-K through Third Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning” to remake K-3 education using best practices of the First Class pre-K model.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb proposed to double the state’s investment in pre-K to $20 million annually. In 2014, Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K program for low-income four-year-olds was piloted in five counties. (For a comprehensive history of the evolution of Indiana’s pre-K program, check out this recent report from New America). This April, a measure was passed to expand the pre-K program to 15 more counties for the 2018-19 school year and increase state pre-K spending from $10 million to $22 million per year. The number of Indiana children receiving state-funded pre-K will increase from about 2,400 to 4,000. While the expansion of pre-K in the state is a positive step, there are still only 20 out of 92 counties throughout the state that currently provide state-funded pre-K.

In January, Texas Governor Greg Abbott criticized the state House and Senate for submitting budgets that fund pre-K programs without holding them accountable to quality standards. A priority for Governor Abbott this session was to fund optional high-quality pre-K, doubling the funding to $236 million for the pre-K grant program. Instead, the final budget allocates no funding for the optional pre-K grant program. Districts are now required to take up to 15 percent of their enrollment-based formula aid to implement standards of a high-quality pre-K program, such as low teacher-student ratios, hiring of qualified teachers, and reports of student progress to the state.*

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton proposed to increase state funding for voluntary pre-K. Initially, he asked for $175 million, but the final bill that passed includes only $50 million in new funding for his pre-K initiative and other school readiness programs. Montana Governor Steve Bullock proposed the first ever state pre-K grant program, and $3 million was recently passed by the state legislature to increase access to high quality pre-K for low-income four-year-olds. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper proposed to eliminate the pre-K waiting list for at-risk four-year-olds by creating nearly 4,700 new pre-K slots and the latest budget agreement is said to reduce the state’s waiting list by 75 percent by funding more than 3,500 pre-K slots, although it’s unclear if Governor Cooper will sign the budget agreement. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget included $75 million to expand high-quality early childhood education throughout the state, but a Republican House Budget proposal reduces the early childhood investment from $75 to $25 million. A final budget deal has yet to be reached in Pennsylvania.

These governors recognize the importance of early care and education, and many see it as an investment with a high rate of return that benefits both children and parents. But it’s not a done deal. While governors propose increased investment in early care and education, they must also work with state legislators to formulate a budget that balances all of the state’s priorities.

Some governors have also proposed increasing access to full-day kindergarten in their states. My colleague, Aaron Loewenberg, will be posting a blog analyzing these proposals shortly.

*This blog post was revised on 7/10/17 at 2 PM to accurately reflect Texas pre-K budget allocations.