Early Childhood Education:

Information on Costs and Services at High-Quality Centers

HRD-89-130FS: Published: Jul 21, 1989. Publicly Released: Aug 3, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information from a survey of 158 early childhood education centers on the costs of providing high-quality early childhood education programs for prekindergarten-aged children.

GAO found that: (1) early childhood centers reported a cost of $4,070 per child in 1988, with the lowest cost per child in the West and the highest in the Northeast; (2) the centers reported an average teacher-child ratio of nine-to-one for 4-year-old children and four-to-one for toddlers; (3) a higher child-teacher ratio would lower the cost per child by between $100 and $300; (4) more than three-fourths of center expenses were for salaries and benefits and rent or mortgage, while the remainder went for additional operating expenses; (5) early childhood education teachers' salaries averaged about $13,700 compared with $27,400 for public elementary school teachers; (6) public school teacher salaries generally increased at a greater rate with experience than the salaries of degreed early childhood education teachers; (7) the centers reported insurance costs averaging about $5,630 in 1988, an average of $82 per child; (8) proposed legislation would require certain supplementary services, including screening for health or handicapping conditions, referrals for health and social services agencies, and family support services; and (9) 23 of the 158 centers reported that they were affiliated with a religious organization.

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