Governing early care and education systems is complex, with multiple agencies overseeing several programs (e.g., home visiting, child care, state pre-K, individuals with disabilities, preschool development grants and more). These programs all contribute to a child’s early development, yet are often siloed, making alignment and coordination difficult. This fragmentation impacts states’ abilities to provide cohesive and high-quality supports for young children and their families to ensure strong foundations are developed for school readiness.

This 50-State Comparison provides data on states’ early care and education governance systems, with a focus on the agencies that oversee these programs, the level of alignment of these programs and the advisory entities for early care and education in the state. Education Commission of the States has researched the policies and regulations that guide these key components in all 50 states to provide this comprehensive resource. Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons, showing how all states approach specific policies, or view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

Key Takeaways

  • Early care and education systems comprise several programs and services: child care, Head Start and Early Head Start, state pre-K, home visiting, early intervention/disability services, preschool development grants, quality rating and improvement systems and much more. Across the country, these various programs and services are housed in a collection of agencies, including the following departments: education, children and families, health/public health, human/social services, economic/workforce, developmental/rehabilitation, welfare, nonprofit organizations, postsecondary entities and myriad consolidated and newly created agencies.
  • The governance structures of states’ early care and education systems vary significantly. States generally fall into one of three categories: created (the state has created an agency to oversee several early care and education components), consolidated (the state has consolidated several agencies or programs into one entity) or coordinated (the state has various agencies that provide programs and services that require coordination). The information in this 50-state comparison reflects information prior to 2021 legislative sessions—for a look at changes in 2021, please see the Early Care and Education Governance Infographic.
  • The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 requires every state to establish an advisory council with specific responsibilities. All states and the District of Columbia have these councils, but their additional responsibilities, membership and reporting requirements vary significantly.
  • Seventeen states have an early care and education advisory entity in addition to the state advisory council. Examples include children’s cabinets, commissions and boards. These entities serve in a similar and/or complementary role to the advisory council. 

50-State Comparisons

Click on the items below to see data for all states

Early Care and Education Offices 

  1. What is the name of the primary oversight entity (parent agency or organization)? 
  2. If applicable, what is the name of the specific division, office or unit?
  3. Website.

Governance Structures

  1. What is the name of the entity?
  2. What is the entity’s category of oversight? 
  3. Does the state have dedicated capacity in the governor’s office or an agency focused on supporting coordination among early care and education components?
  4. What are the primary responsibilities of the entity?
  5. What year was the entity created?
  6. Is there an enabling statute, regulation or executive order? (Yes/No)

Advisory Entities

  1. Are there any advisory entities? (Yes/No/Unclear)
  2. What is the name of the advisory entity?
  3. Is the advisory entity defined in statute, regulation or executive order?
  4. Who does the entity advise?
  5. About the advisory entity.
  6. How are members appointed or selected?

To view a specific state’s approach, go to the state profiles page.

Related Resources


 STATE(S): Nationwide

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