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ERIC Number: ED542909
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Sep
Pages: 28
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 53
An Economic Analysis of Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in Wisconsin: Returns to the Education System. Pre-K Now Research Series
Belfield, Clive R.; Winters, Dennis K.
Pre-K Now
This paper considers the economic impact to the K-12 education system in the state of Wisconsin and in the district of Milwaukee from expanding provision of pre-kindergarten, which is known in Wisconsin as four-year-old kindergarten (4K). The proposed investment would make 4K available to a significantly larger number of children in the state. Prior studies have found significant benefits from pre-k programs. These are briefly reviewed [Section One]. For Wisconsin, expanding the 4K program by a factor of three would allow 32,102 extra four-year-old children to participate each year (in other states, around 70 percent of families take advantage of high-quality pre-k). For these new places for children, the total investment cost would be $207 million. This is less than 3 percent of annual expenditures on education in Wisconsin [Section Two]. The proposed program would generate strong benefits for the state (e.g., reduced crime and reliance on welfare) as well as benefits to the children and their families. The focus here is on the consequences of expanding 4K for K-12 educational budgets in Wisconsin. The education system is affected because children progress more efficiently through their schooling as a result of early-childhood programs. State-specific data, published research, and new evidence are used to estimate these fiscal benefits to the school system [Section Three]. The net economic impact of comprehensive statewide pre-k is calculated as a benefit-cost ratio [Section Four]. For each cohort of four year olds, the benefits of investment in comprehensive 4K offset 68 percent of the costs. For every dollar committed to 4K, 68 cents would be returned in savings. The analysis is also performed for the Milwaukee school district. This district has higher, K-12, per-student expenditures, and higher rates of grade repetition and special education. Accordingly, the K-12 cost savings are found to be higher. The benefits of investment in comprehensive 4K for Milwaukee would offset 76 percent of the costs of the program, when only K-12 educational budgets are considered. These results are robust to alternative assumptions. When all benefits are accounted for, there is a clear economic motive for investment in four-year-old kindergarten across the state of Wisconsin. (Contains 7 tables and 21 endnotes.) [Contributions include Sarah Cohen, Jennifer V. Doctors, Libby Doggett, DeDe Dunevant and Jill Haglund. Funding for this paper was provided by the Trust for Early Education.]
Pre-K Now. Available from: Pew Charitable Trusts, State and Consumer Initiatives. 901 E Street NW 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20004. Tel: 202-540-2000; Fax: 202-552-2299; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Early Childhood Education; Preschool Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Pew Charitable Trusts, Pre-K Now
Identifiers - Location: Wisconsin