GAO Update on the Number of Prekindergarten Care and Education Programs

GAO-05-678R: Published: Jun 2, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 1, 2005.

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Marlene S. Shaul
(202) 512-6778


Office of Public Affairs
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This letter responds to a Congressional request concerning our April 2000 report, Early Education and Care: Overlap Indicates Need to Assess Crosscutting Programs (GAO/HEHS-00-78). Given the historical concern regarding the potential for program overlap among federal early childhood education and care programs, Congress asked that we update the list of programs providing or supporting education or care for children under the age of 5. The 2000 list included 69 programs, which were administered by 9 different agencies. To respond to the request, we replicated the keyword search from our 2000 report using the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). After assessing the reliability of the CFDA, we determined it was suitable for our purposes. We obtained explanations regarding programs that were deleted from the CFDA. Our search yielded 254 programs, and we reviewed their descriptions to determine if they met three criteria: (1) directly funded or supported education and/or child care, (2) provided these services to children under age 5, and (3) delivered services in an educational or child care setting. Based on this review, we selected over 70 programs as potentially meeting these criteria and provided agencies with the opportunity to comment on this assessment.

Generally, we found that the landscape of federal programs offered remained largely the same as in 2000. We identified 69 programs as meeting our criteria and found that 10 agencies administer these programs. While the total number of programs remained the same, there were, however, some changes in the makeup of the list. Specifically, 16 programs were removed from the list and 16 were added. The Department of Education, the agency responsible for the most programs on the list, had the biggest change, dropping 11 programs from the original list and adding 5 programs. For 13 programs in our 2000 report, agencies questioned in their comments whether the program should be included based on our criteria. For purposes of our report, we have interpreted our criteria broadly. Based on our review of the relevant legal and program documents and discussions with agency officials, we found that our criteria warrants including all but 2 of these 13 programs as providing or supporting care and education programs for children under 5 in an educational or child care setting.

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