Expanding Pre-K Comes with “Staggering” Price Tag

Expanding high-quality pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds and low-income three-year-olds is a hallmark of the [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education’s preliminary report. The Early Childhood Education workgroup, one of four workgroups tasked with costing out the Commission’s preliminary recommendations, today released initial cost estimates for expanding high-quality, full-day pre-K in Maryland — and the numbers are staggering.

Cost of Expanding Pre-K in Maryland

According to the education consulting firm Augenblick, Palaich, And Associates (APA) and the Maryland State Department of Education, expanding high-quality, full-day pre-K to low income (300% FPL) four-year-olds would cost approximately $230 million in 2019.

By 2024, the cost for expanding high-quality, full-day pre-K to low-income (300% FPL) four-year-olds jumps to approximately $456 million.

Notably, while the Commission’s preliminary report calls for expanding pre-K to all four-year-olds, these estimates only account for low-income four-year-olds.

The cost of expanding high-quality, full-day pre-K to all low-income (300% FPL) three-year-olds would cost approximately $456 million.

One Commissioner called the numbers “staggering,” while others questioned whether the State should include the cost of high-quality pre-K as part of its compensatory program. The compensatory program is designed to provide extra support to students coming from backgrounds of poverty. For every student who qualifies for Free and Reduced Price Meals, school systems receive an amount equal to 97% of their per-pupil foundation amount.

As Maryland expands pre-kindergarten for young children in the state, building the capacity of the early childhood education (ECE) workforce will be a key issue. The workgroup plans to review the current requirements for ECE educators before presenting their final recommendations to the full Commission.

Judy Centers/Early Childhood Development Centers

Judith P. Hoyer Early Child Care and Family Education Centers, known as “Judy Centers,” offer a wide range of services for low-income children and their families. Maryland’s Network of 25 Family Support Centers provide free, comprehensive services to families, targeting parents and their young children.

The Early Childhood Education workgroup will recommend expanding Judy Centers and Family Support Centers to provide and coordinate access to education and support services for at-risk young children ages 0-5 and their families. The plan calls for the expansion of Judy Centers to be phased in over ten years, with the neediest communities receiving the highest priority.

MSDE will be required to consider geographic diversity when selecting a Title I school to locate a new Judy Center and coordinate placement of new Judy Centers in order to serve multiple Title I schools in a high needs area or region.

Like Judy Centers, the expansion of Family Support Centers will be phased in over ten years, with priority in opening new Family Support Centers going to on the most underserved neediest communities.

MSDE will be required to consider geographic diversity when selecting regions to locate a new Family Support Center and coordinate placement of new Family Support Centers in order to serve multiple, adjacent counties or areas in need of a Family Support Center. Currently, nine counties (Calvert, Charles, Garrett, Harford, Howard, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester) do not have a Family Support Center.

The workgroup’s plan calls on the State to open three new centers a year so that by FY2029, there will be 30 new Family Support Centers.

The Commission’s four working groups will continue working to develop a consensus on the design, implementation plan, and cost for each of the preliminary recommendations. Once the working groups have completed their work, they will present their recommendations and cost estimates to the full Commission. The chair will work with staff and consultants to develop a draft cost estimate based on the recommendations of the working groups (as considered by the full Commission) for the full Commission’s consideration.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission.

The Commission was originally set to complete its work in time for the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but last October asked for an extension when it became clear the deadline was not realistic. Prior to breaking for the 2018 legislative session, the Commission released a preliminary report detailing its preliminary recommendations.

MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation. Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Friday, July 13, 2018; 9:30 am-5:30 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Materials from today’s meeting are available on the Department of Legislative Services website, and meetings viewable online by searching the House Appropriations Committee room on the dates of each meeting.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

2017 Preliminary Report

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

The Commission is expected to complete its work in time for the 2019 session of the General Assembly, and has recently sharpened its focus on education formulas — including the pattern and role of county funding. At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, attend this general session to learn how county governments could be affected by the Commission’s final report.

Angling for Educational Excellence: Kirwan 2.0

Description: The [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was formed in 2016 to answer two questions: Should the state revise current education funding formulas? And what major new education policies must be enacted to put Maryland public schools on par with the best in the world? The Commission released preliminary policy recommendations earlier this year, and has recently sharpened its focus on education formulas — including the pattern and role of county funding. Spending formulas, systematic accountability, and resource equity are all hot topics. How will the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations affect county governments? This session focuses on education funding and accountability, and how to best ensure that Maryland students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education.


  • Dr. William “Brit” Kirwan, Chair, Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education
  • The Honorable Craig Rice, Council Member, Montgomery County
  • The Honorable William Valentine, Commissioner, Allegany County

Moderator: The Honorable Maggie McIntosh, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Saturday, August 18, 2018; 10:15 am – 11:15 am

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will be held Aug. 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center, in Ocean City, MD.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: