What GAO Found
State officials and local providers of early care and education programs that GAO interviewed identified benefits associated with integrating funding from multiple sources as well as partnering with other providers. They also cited factors that adversely impacted their ability to do so. The benefits most often cited by state officials and providers included access to additional funding sources, opportunities to serve more children, increased access by families to full day services, and the ability to offer higher quality care. The factors cited by state officials and local providers in which different requirements, practices, and state and local policies can adversely affect integration and partnering across multiple programs include:
- data sharing or technology;
- reimbursement practices;
- different child-to-staff ratio requirements;
- different income eligibility criteria;
- different teacher credential requirements;
- cost allocation rules; and
- monitoring requirements.
Providers GAO interviewed said that these factors resulted in, among other things, additional challenges for them. These included (1) the need to divert resources from services to attend to record keeping and monitoring visits, (2) encountering funding restrictions, or (3) as a consequence of a requirement, a reduction in the provider’s income. All of the state officials and local providers GAO spoke to reported steps taken at the state or local level to address factors that they said can adversely affect program funding integration or partnering.
Why GAO Did This Study
Millions of children under the age of 5 participate in federal and state early care and education programs each year. For fiscal years 2010 to 2015, Congress appropriated almost $48 billion to Head Start and over $31 billion to the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), the two largest sources of federal funding for early care and education. To better leverage funds, expand services, and make quality improvements, many providers delivering these early care and education services are forming partnerships with other providers or combining funds from federal and other sources.
GAO was asked to examine how state and local grantees are managing multiple funding sources and partnering with other providers to provide quality early care. This report describes what selected state officials and local child care providers identified as (1) the benefits to integrating funding from federal Head Start, CCDF, and state Pre-K programs and partnering with other providers; (2) factors that adversely affect integration and partnering; and (3) ways these adverse impacts were mitigated. To gather information about the factors that affected integrating funds and partnering, GAO conducted 24 interviews with state officials and local providers in four states (Colorado, Maryland, Washington, and West Virginia). GAO initially identified states using recommendations from HHS, state officials, and child care stakeholder groups. The final list of states GAO selected was based on the following criteria: (1) participation in HHS’s Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships grant program; (2) experiences with partnering among early care and education programs; (3) variation in licensing standards; and (4) differences in state income eligibility levels for CCDF. In each state, GAO selected 2 to 5 providers for interviews, also based on recommendations of state officials or providers that were integrating funds or partnering as part of their provision of early care and education services. GAO researched relevant federal laws and regulations; reviewed agency documentation, and literature; and interviewed agency officials from HHS, Education, and representatives of child care stakeholder groups. The information obtained from GAO’s work is illustrative and not representative of early care and education program partnerships in a particular state or of a particular early care and education program.
GAO is not making any recommendations.