Paying for Preschool

The many benefits of high-quality preschool education are clear, from preparing children for kindergarten to improving test scores throughout school. Studies also show that children who attend pre-K are less likely to repeat grades and more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not.

But high-quality preschool often comes at great expense. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), married California parents pay a quarter of their income — and sometimes more — on child care and early childhood education. Single parents pay 50% of income to child care. For many, that can translate to the equivalent of paying for a year of college before their child even gets to kindergarten! Facilities that check off the hallmarks of high-quality preschools — high teacher/student ratios and safe, well-maintained facilities — are difficult for many families to afford.

How can parents get help to pay for early childhood education? Begin by investigating state-funded preschools. With recent enhanced funding, California now leads the country in committing to affordable, high-quality early childhood education. Head Start State Preschool in Los Angeles is the largest Head Start in the nation. You can learn more at prekkid.org or by calling 1-877-PRE-K-KID (1-877-773-5543). Enrollment for LAUSD’s Early Education Centers begins in March for children as young as age 2; explore your options at achieve.LAUSD.net.

Explore preschools based in churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious and community centers. Since the cost of rent for these facilities is often subsidized, preschools in houses of worship and other community centers may be less expensive. Additionally, cooperative preschools, where parents are expected to donate time to the school, may be less expensive and worth exploring.

Look into scholarships. If you find a school that seems ideal for your child, it’s possible that you may get help in paying for it, so it is worth exploring your options. Some private schools offer significant financial aid, like the UCLA Lab School. Additionally, a number of state and federal programs are available to help parents pay for preschool. For more information, visit the Child Care Resource Center.
Finally, it is worth exploring educational investing, such a Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESA) — where parents can invest up to $2,000 tax free a year — which can be used to pay for preschools as well as other education. Employee benefits, such as flexible spending, where pre-tax income is set aside to pay for child care, may be helpful; on-site child care options through your employer may also offer convenience and possible scholarships.

While paying for high-quality preschool may be a bit daunting, the long-term value for a child is great. Carefully exploring your options can help you make the right decision for you and your child. Remember, preschool only lasts a few years!

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