Early Ed & PreK-12

Early Ed & PreK-12 policy explainers cover a wide range of issues and policy areas impacting young children and students, birth through high school.

Federal Education Legislation

Several major pieces of federal legislation affect early learning and PreK-12 education in the United States. First, as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, Congress passed and President Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).


School Funding

America spends over $550 billion a year on public elementary and secondary education in the United States. On average, school districts spend $10,658 for each individual student, although per pupil expenditures vary greatly among states, school districts and individual schools.


Dual Language Learners

Around one in five American students currently speaks a language other than English at home, and Census projections estimate that this number will continue to rise in the coming decades. These multilingual children are commonly known as “dual language learners” (DLLs).


Students With Disabilities

Federal law, as well as laws in many states, enshrines the provision of a free and appropriate public school education for eligible students with disabilities (SWD), ages 3–21. Eligible children and youth are those identified by a team of professionals as having a disability that adversely affects academic performance.


Nutrition and Schools

The National School Lunch Program supports student nutrition in over 101,000 schools and residential facilities. It provides free and reduced priced meals to low-income children before school, during school, after school, and over the summer.



To understand pre-K in the United States, it helps to recognize that pre-K programs—sometimes called “preschool” or “junior kindergarten”—come in all shapes and sizes. Variations exist across localities, across states, and throughout the country.


College and Career Readiness

Use of the term “college and career readiness” abounds in the dialogue around PreK-12 policy reform. The widespread use of the term can, at least in part, be attributed to the Obama Administration’s 2010 Race to the Top (RTT) grant competitions.


College Transitions

Each year, hundreds of thousands of American students graduate from high school and enter college without being adequately prepared to succeed. This is in part the result of differing expectations for readiness between high school and higher education.


PreK-12 Tax Benefits

The federal government provides some tax benefits for K-12 education. These include a tax deduction for teachers for out-of-pocket classroom expenses, and two types of tax credit bonds for public school construction.