December 22, 2009
Throughout the United States, investments in high-quality early childhood education are seen by community leaders as a strategy for improving outcomes in areas such as K-12 education, workforce development, and economic development. Indeed, many research studies conclude that high quality early learning environments produce social, educational, and economic benefits for children and the communities in which they live. As a result, many state and local governments around the country are seeking to capture these benefits by investing in quality improvement efforts. Wisconsin is no different; the 2009-2010 state biennial budget calls for the Department of Children and Families to create a strategy for improving the quality of publicly-subsidized child care. While policymakers increasingly are looking to maximize the benefits of high-quality early childhood education, budget realities often dictate that they do so while minimizing the expenditure of public funds. Thus, this report seeks to inform these decisions in Wisconsin by estimating the costs of achieving improved quality in child care and early learning programs in southeast Wisconsin and analyzing policy options associated with quality improvement initiatives.