The need for high-quality early childhood education has never been greater. Decades of research have demonstrated the short- and long-term benefits for children and society of attending a high-quality program. Unfortunately, these programs are out of reach for many families. Tuition rates rival or exceed the cost of college, and high-quality child care spaces are so limited that many families find themselves in “child care deserts.” With federal initiatives to support high-quality programs increasingly unlikely under the current administration and Congress, states must pick up the baton and act to increase access to quality early childhood education for all children.
Almost every state has a Quality Rating and Improvement System, or QRIS, designed to measure and improve the quality of early childhood programs and inform parents and the community about program quality. QRIS offer a promising framework to increase the number of high-quality programs, but they are often underutilized. According to a Center for American Progress analysis of data reported in the QRIS Compendium, many QRIS suffer from low participation, with 17 QRIS reporting that less than 50 percent of licensed child care centers participate and 23 QRIS reporting that less than 50 percent of family child care providers participate. Among programs that do participate, only a small number have received the highest quality rating.This article was originally published in BUILD Initiative.