Center for American Progress

Governors Are Calling for Investments in Early Care and Education

Governors Are Calling for Investments in Early Care and Education

Echoing 2023, governors from both political parties prioritized child care and pre-kindergarten in their 2024 State of the State addresses.

Child care worker looking at baby in high chair
A child care worker cares for a baby in Boston, March 2020. (Getty/Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe)

Child care is both hard to find and increasingly expensive for families. The average price of licensed child care for a U.S. family is nearly $11,000 per year, which is 33 percent of the median household income for single-parent families. And in 2018, approximately half of the nation’s population of children under age 5 lived in a child care desert. The child care workforce is underpaid and undervalued, threatening the child care supply as providers seek employment in fields that pay more.

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The nation’s governors are responding to this crisis. A Center for American Progress analysis of 2024 State of the State addresses finds that more than half of the nation’s governors highlighted child care and/or pre-kindergarten—28 of the 38 governors who had given addresses as of February 22, 2024. Sixteen of these governors were Democrats and 12 were Republicans, clearly showing that early care and education is a bipartisan issue. Overall, 25 governors mentioned child care in their speeches and 12 mentioned pre-kindergarten. Nine governors mentioned both. CAP’s previous State of the State analysis found that in 2023, 22 of 36 governors—13 Democrats and nine Republicans—highlighted child care and pre-kindergarten, with 15 governors mentioning child care and 11 mentioning pre-kindergarten. This shows that the importance of early care and education has only increased for the nation’s governors.

President Joe Biden also recognizes this importance. In his 2024 State of the Union address, he mentioned expanding access to pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds as well as making child care more affordable. Governors also have mentioned early care and education as a priority for working families. They are proposing improved compensation for hardworking child care providers and expanded access to child care and preschool opportunities so that more children can enroll in affordable programs.

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What governors are saying about early care and education

Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO): “Over the last five years, we’ve blazed new trails in Colorado in early childhood education with the creation of free, full-day kindergarten and free universal preschool—saving Colorado families thousands of dollars and giving our children the best possible start in life. … [T]his work has propelled Colorado from 26th to 8th in the country in preschool access in just one year!”

Gov. Ned Lamont (D-CT): “Our budget provides the biggest commitment to childcare in our history, an additional $90 million next year alone, providing additional pay for early childhood educators and higher reimbursement for our centers and family care homes.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL): “I propose we stay on plan and increase Smart Start funding by $150 million in year two to create 5,000 more preschool seats, continue growing childcare, and reach thousands more families with critical early childhood services. And I also ask that in this budget we begin the first phase of consolidating state government’s early childhood programs into one agency called the Department of Early Childhood.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN): “We must expand our childcare workforce to help working moms and dads in Indiana.”

Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY): “[I]t’s time to pass universal pre-K for all our 4-year-olds. We are rightfully concerned about learning loss. So, we should address it where it begins. In the last academic year, only 46% of kindergartners were considered kindergarten-ready. Instituting universal pre-K the right way … means investing in both pre-K and our child-care providers. That’s why my budget proposal provides record funding to help our child-care providers in their transition to serve both younger children and provide after school programs. Funding both, together, can be transformational. If we pass universal pre-K plus our child-care plan, an additional 34,000 Kentucky children will receive pre-K services and thousands of additional child-care spots will open up.”

Gov. Wes Moore (D-MD): “Last month, the Comptroller released a study outlining the affordability problems Maryland families face every day. Her report highlighted that as the cost of child care INCREASES, overall female employment DECREASES by 5%[.] And it’s why our proposed budget includes the single largest increase in funding for child care in Maryland history. It’s going to support 45,000 Maryland children this year.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI): “Last year, I proposed Pre-K for All by the end of 2026, saving families $10,000 a year and giving every child a solid academic foundation. Together, we are changing our definition of education to include pre-K, and last year, we expanded free pre-K to 5,600 more kids. And you know what? This year we’re going to go a heck of a lot further. In our next budget, let’s deliver pre-K for every single 4-year-old in Michigan, 2 years ahead of schedule. When we get this done, no matter who you are, where you come from, or how much you make, your child can enroll in pre-K and be set up for success.”

Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO): “This year, alongside Senator Arthur and Representative Shields, we are again proposing three new child care tax credit programs. These programs will help improve access and affordability for families seeking child care across the state of Missouri. Additionally, we are continuing funding for the expansion of pre-kindergarten programs. These are commonsense measures that are good for business, great for families, and best for all Missouri children. … [T]his year we are proposing a $52 million dollar investment in Missouri’s child care subsidy program.”

Gov. Jim Pillen (R-NE): “With input from our working group that focused on workforce development over the past six months, we have come forward with proposals in childcare & early childhood education, housing, and general education.”

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ): “[I]n the spirit of lifting the financial burdens weighing on our families, let us redouble our commitment to bringing universal pre-K to all of New Jersey. To ensure that every family—regardless of their economic status—can afford to send their child to a safe, enriching environment during the day. So far, we have helped more than 14,000 of our state’s children enroll in a pre-K program. And we are just getting started. Because making New Jersey the best place to raise a family means ensuring every child has the support they need to reach their full potential. And every parent has the freedom to work, go to school, or take care of other family members.”

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Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND): “$66 million alongside of the federal funds went into the North Dakota child care initiative. … What’s happening with that investment, now more than 4,800 working families have received help with childcare costs just in the first six months of this biennium, more than 300 childcare business have benefited from grants and incentives … When we talk about trying to solve our issue with 30,000 jobs open, we put a huge dent in it with this child care thing because we got 5,000 people that maybe came back into the workforce.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA): “That’s why this budget invests in Early Intervention and childcare, because our kids deserve the support they need to grow and develop before they enter school … On top of that, my budget … invests another 30 million dollars in Pre-K programs to help recruit and retain the teachers who get our kids off to a great start.”

Glenn Youngkin (R-VA): “We launched historic efforts to transform our overwhelmed behavioral health system, our childcare system—critical for working families … By innovating with a digital wallet, ensuring no working family loses access, prioritizing parent choice and cutting red tape for families and providers, we are delivering a best-in-class model for early learning and childcare. These are the building blocks that are at the center of the future of the Commonwealth.”

Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV): “I’m proposing a Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit where folks that are struggling with daycare can at least write them off your taxes against your revenue. We need this and we need this very badly and we need it right now.”

Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI): “Wisconsin faces a looming child care crisis—costs to working families are skyrocketing, we don’t have enough child care providers, and the providers we have are struggling to keep the lights on. And the effects are intuitive—if a kid no longer has child care or a parent can’t afford it, someone’s going to have to stay home with them. Folks, lack of accessible, affordable child care is a statewide workforce issue. Without continued investments in Child Care Counts, our workforce will suffer mightily: 2,110 child care programs are projected to close. 87,000 kids could be without child care. We could lose over 4,880 child care jobs. That’s about a half a billion dollar economic impact on our state.”

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Over half of Kansas families in search of child care cannot find an open slot—forcing many parents to quit their jobs. And the shortages are worst in our rural areas. That’s bad for our children, stressful for our parents, and, at a time when every business is desperate for workers, it slows down our economy. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, in 2024 State of the State address

In January 2024, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) proposed investing more than $56 million to increase the number of child care slots available in her state and to better compensate the child care workforce. Included in this amount is $30 million for the construction of new child care facilities and $5 million for a pilot public-private partnership. In her State of the State address, Gov. Kelly also proposed consolidating a number of early childhood programs into a single Office of Early Childhood.

Last year, we delivered nearly half a billion dollars to stabilize the sector. And we made it easier for families to get financial help. This year’s budget will keep that funding in place. And we’ll go further. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, in 2024 State of the State address

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) is focused on expanding pre-kindergarten and lowering child care costs. Her fiscal year 2025 budget requests include the “Gateway to Pre-K” agenda, which aims to:

  1. Deliver universal and high-quality preschool to 23,000 4-year-olds in 26 select communities, or Gateway Cities, by the end of 2026.
  2. Provide an additional 4,000 families child care financial assistance by increasing income eligibility from 50 percent to 85 percent of the state median income.
  3. Continue providing Commonwealth Cares for Children grants, which provide funding for programs to improve quality, pay for facilities, and compensate staff.
  4. Sign an executive order that recognizes child care’s importance to the Massachusetts economy.
Enrollment in our full-day, four-year-old kindergarten program for children in poverty continues to grow with 17,437 children now enrolled in a public school, private school, or childcare center. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, in 2024 State of the State address

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has a long-term objective to expand his state’s 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) program by eliminating the income threshold. As a first step, he included in his proposed budget $21.1 million in funding to add an additional 2,500 slots. His budget also includes $3 million to provide training in evidence-based foundational literacy skills for 4K teachers.


Governors are clear: Early care and education is a priority for working families across the country. With Congress failing to act, governors are heeding the call to invest in child care and pre-kindergarten as work supports for families and enriching opportunities for young children. As state policymakers continue their legislative sessions this year, they have an opportunity to follow their governors’ leads and take action to make early care and education more accessible and affordable for families.

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Anna Lovejoy

Director, Early Childhood Policy


Early Childhood Policy

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