Establishing the conditions that promote educational achievement for children is critical, beginning with quality prenatal care and continuing through the early elementary years. High-quality preschool programs for 3- to 4-year-olds help set the stage for future skill development, well-being and learning — particularly for those from low-income households. These programs lay a vital foundation that helps kids stay in school, graduate on time, pursue postsecondary education and training and successfully transition to adulthood.
Although Head Start and the expansion of state-funded programs since the 1990s have greatly increased access to preschool and kindergarten, many kids — especially 3-year-olds and children living in low-income families — continued to be left out, exacerbating socioeconomic differences in educational achievement. From 2015-17, more than half of all 3- to 4-year-olds — 4.2 million kids total — were not in school.