As the name suggests, state-funded pre-kindergarten programs (also called “universal pre-K”) are administered by their states. These states often work together with local counties to help fund universal prekindergarten programs.
Since this educational child care service is state-specific, there may be different rules and availability depending on where you live. For example, even though the vast majority of states help to fund pre-K programs, not every state provides enough funding to make them accessible to everyone.
Depending on where you live, the pre-K programs in your state may be run by school districts or by third-party organizations. Many of these programs are open to kids as young as 3, but they usually serve children who are 4 years of age.
The reason state-funded pre-K programs are sometimes called “universal” programs isn’t because these programs are available everywhere, but rather because wherever universal pre-K is available, it is open to everyone.
This means that your family does not need to make under a certain amount of money in order to enroll a child into pre-Kindergarten.
In states or counties that do not have “universal” pre-K, you may only be able to enroll your child if your household is considered low-income.
In addition to state pre-K programs, your child may have access to other educational child care services like Head Start and Early Head Start.
These two programs get young children ready for school by helping them learn important skills, expand their knowledge, socialize with other children and more. This makes them a valuable child care resource for parents who want to make sure their children are learning while they are away from home.
The best part of the Head Start program is that it is either free or available at a low cost depending on factors like your location and income. Plus, the Early Head Start program is open to children under 5 years of age.
In order to enroll your child in a Head Start “school,” you will need to have an income at or below the federal poverty level (FPL).
Since program availability changes depending on the area, you will need to apply for Head Start through your local community office. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers a Head Start locator on its website, where you can find nearby offices by putting in your city, state or ZIP code.