A Strong Start: These States Have the Best Preschool Systems, Study Says

The state that can provide your baby with the best educational start? Arkansas.
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profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
Assistant Editor
August 2, 2022
mother walking son into pre-k
Image: Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

A good start can lead to long-term benefits for your little one. According to the National Education Association, children enrolled in early education programs like preschool are more likely to be academically prepared for future grades and have higher graduation rates and earning potential than those not enrolled.

So how can you help your child get the best start? It turns out a lot of your child’s early education success may have to do with where you live. A recent report by WalletHub used 12 key indicators to identify which US states offered the top early education systems.

The indicators used to rank the states were divided into three categories:

  • Access, or how easily parents could find programs and enroll their children in them. Data gathered included the number of school districts offering state pre-K programs and the number of children on the pre-k waitlists.
  • Quality, or how well children responded to the overall experience. Data gathered included the number of pre-K quality benchmarks met and whether school safety plans were required.
  • Resources and Economic Support, or the cost per child and subsidized programs available. Data gathered included reported family spending per child enrolled and the state spending per child.

Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest quality of early education. The researchers used the weighted average of scores in each state to determine the best states for early education.

The Top 10 States With the Best Preschool Systems:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Nebraska
  3. Maryland
  4. District of Columbia
  5. Rhode Island
  6. Alabama
  7. Oregon
  8. Vermont
  9. West Virginia
  10. New Mexico

Based on the scores, the report concluded that Arkansas has the best early education system, with its high access and quality scores earning it the top spot. Nebraska follows suit in second place with high access and quality scores, while Maryland, in third place, got top marks for quality and economic support. In fact, Maryland, The District of Columbia and Idaho have some of the lowest monthly child care co-payment fees (as a share of family income), hovering at just 1 percent.

For a detailed breakdown of how the states were scored and to see all 50 states and their rank, check out the full online report.

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