Fact Sheet: Using Federal Preschool Grant To Build State Early Learning Systems – Center For American Progress

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What is the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five program?

The Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program is the only federal funding stream dedicated to building state-level early childhood systems—critical to improving, streamlining, and coordinating the nation’s fragmented early care and education landscape.1 A competitive program for both states and territories, PDG B-5 is one of several early care and education programs that the federal government administers2 and was first authorized in 2015 under the Every Student Succeeds Act.3

Funding for PDG B-5 is appropriated to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education.4 Although PDG B-5 is one of the smallest federal child care programs in terms of funding—receiving $315 million in fiscal year 2024—it provides crucial resources that states can use to improve coordination among existing programs and invest in their highest-need areas.5

The PDG B-5 program offers two types of grants: one-year planning grants and three-year renewal grants.6 Planning grants support states and territories in conducting thorough birth through five needs assessments followed by responsive strategic planning. States and territories that have completed initial planning are eligible to apply for renewal grants, which provide funds to carry out activities laid out in strategic plans. Previously awarded grant amounts range from just more than $2 million to $16 million.7 Since 2018, the first year that PDG B-5 became available, 54 states and territories have received planning grants, and 48 have received renewal grants. The program’s widespread uptake demonstrates its bipartisan popularity.8

Why are PDG B-5 grants important?

America’s early care and education system is a patchwork of programs that families struggle to navigate and afford. A primary goal of PDG B-5 is to coordinate among various early childhood funding streams—and it is uniquely positioned to achieve this, as it is the only federal program specifically authorized to increase collaboration and quality across child care, Head Start, state prekindergarten, and home visiting programs, as well as the various state agencies that oversee these programs.9PDG B-5 helps ensure that early care and learning systems are as streamlined and efficient as possible, increasing equitable access for all families. Notably, the Administration for Children and Families has called on PDG B-5 recipients to target grant funding toward improving workforce compensation, which continues to be one of the greatest challenges to providing adequate child care across the country.10

PDG B-5 grants:

  • Help maximize parental choice among available programs and clearly communicate information to families about child care options.
  • Enhance data collection to support better program efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Streamline child care and early learning services by promoting collaboration across multiple programs, agencies, and systems.
  • Support the child care workforce.
  • Strengthen the quality and safety of early care and education programs.

All these activities support the formation of a more coherent, navigable, and equitable system for states and families.11

How are states using PDG B-5 grants?

The states below demonstrate the wide variety in how PDG B-5 funding is being used.12

  • Kansas is using grant funding to identify and reduce regulatory burdens associated with operating state child care businesses; provide technical assistance to child care providers; connect families to available resources; and improve coordination across Head Start, child care, and early intervention programs.13
  • Maryland is using its PDG B-5 renewal grant to develop an integrated mixed-delivery system of programs and services for young children. The state is using a variety of strategies, including modernizing its early childhood data system, providing training and coaching to improve quality among programs for infants and toddlers as well as preschool-age children, and expanding the availability of settings that are inclusive for young children with disabilities.14
  • New Mexico used its grant to establish an Early Childhood Education and Care Department in 2020, a Cabinet-level department that is responsible for overseeing statewide early childhood services and supports. It is one of just four departments like this in the United States. The state also used grant funding to develop the Early Childhood Integrated Data System, coordinating and integrating early learning data into a single system and expanding professional development opportunities for early childhood educators.15
  • North Carolina has used PDG B-5 funding to develop a strategic plan to assess gaps in access to housing and early childhood systems and identify a process for improving services. The state also improved the North Carolina Early Childhood Integrated Data System and launched a program that provides coaching and professional development to the infant-toddler child care workforce.16
  • Ohio is using its grant to support partnerships between early childhood providers and businesses to increase wages and improve recruitment and retention. The state plans to expand retention bonuses and scholarships for early educators. These scholarships would allow educators to complete professional development coursework and the Child Development Associate credential.17
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What are governors saying about PDG B-5?

PDG B-5 grants are popular among states with Democratic and Republican governors alike. Here is what four governors are saying:

  • Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R): “Alabama children deserve the best start possible, and these funds will help us support early childhood educators in an efficient, developmentally-appropriate way … This grant will support the scaling of high-quality programs of early childhood care and education, so we can ensure our children are prepared for further education, a career and a lifetime of success.”18
  • Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee (D): “The strength of our early childhood sector has direct impacts on our core goals to increase educational achievement to Massachusetts’ level by 2030 and to increase incomes across the state … With this planning grant, we will be able to build on our momentum and ensure our state is in a strong position to implement best practices in the future.”19
  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D): “These important resources will help support my budget proposals to expand pre-school in Colorado and improve the quality of early childhood education. This grant will also support providers’ effective practices, better connect families to needed services, and prepare our children for the classroom and the future.”20
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R): “We know South Carolina’s young people are our greatest asset. This new planning grant award allows our state to continue coordinated efforts to give them the best possible start for a bright future, and that means a bright future for the state as a whole.”21


PDG B-5 is a valuable, worthwhile federal investment in building state early childhood systems, improving quality, and increasing coordination across programs. States are making good use of the funds to accomplish many outcomes that they could not achieve otherwise. While more work and public funding is needed to build a comprehensive early childhood system for the nation, continued funding for PDG B-5 is an essential support for states—one that will allow them to make progress in building and improving state-level systems to equitably serve all children and meet the needs of all families.

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