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Journal Issue: Financing Child Care Volume 6 Number 2 Summer/Fall 1996

Funding Child Care and Public Education
Edward F. Zigler Matia Finn-Stevenson


Ensuring the availability of high-quality, affordable child care to all families who need it is a goal of national importance. The authors suggest that a comprehensive financing and service delivery system for child care is needed to achieve this goal, and the system should ideally be grounded in an existing institution, already present in every community—the public school. The linkage of child care with the public education system would eliminate the false distinction between child care and education, and would create a universally accessible system of child care services for children. The School of the 21st Century is an example of such a system. Initially conceptualized by Zigler, it has now been implemented in 400 schools across 13 states, with the leadership and direction of Finn-Stevenson.

This article describes how school districts that have implemented the program employ a mixture of parent fees and local, state, federal, and private dollars to fund it, and then proposes an ideal financing model for the program. In the ideal model, the same mix of funding sources would be retained, but a per-pupil expenditure of about $9,000 per year is advocated to deliver child care and other social services to three- and four-year-olds. Funds for initial start-up could be derived from reallocation of existing dollars, especially state prekindergarten programs, but eventually new funds would be needed to support ongoing operations.