Ask the Researchers: Access to Public Pre-K

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodMar 27 2024

The “Ask the Researchers” series uses a question and answer format to present research-based information that is relevant and useful for state and territory child care and early education (CCEE)a leaders. A team with expertise in CCEE research gathers questions of importance and relevance to this audience and writes short summaries of the research to answer the questions, noting what we know (and don’t know yet) from research.

This edition of Ask the Researchers uses a question-and-answer format to address key questions about access to public pre-K. Research-based information is summarized to answer these questions:

  1. What does “access” to early care and education (ECE) really mean, and why is it so important?
  2. What is public pre-K? And how accessible is it?
  3. What factors affect access to public pre-K? And for whom?
  4. What other research is still needed on equitable access to public pre-K?

This brief is part of the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) project. CCEEPRA supports policy and program planning and decision-making with rigorous, research-based information.


a Child care and early education (CCEE) refers to caregiving and educational services for children from birth to age 13. CCEE includes center- and home-based settings for infants, toddlers, preschool- and school-aged children. CCEE refers to services for a larger age group than early care and education (ECE), which consists of services provided only for young children (birth to age 5 who are not yet in kindergarten). ECE programs are included within the definition of CCEE. Because this product focuses on public pre-K, the term ECE is used throughout.