Can anyone put a price on a child’s education? As a result of a glaring deficiency of research on the costs of early childhood policies and programs, Kabay and colleagues sought to rectify this gap by examining the costs of preK in Boston. Their goals in this study were to:
- Estimate how much Boston’s highly effective public preschool program costs overall.
- Break down costs that are used only by the preschool and those that are system-wide.
- Quantify how costs change over time, in particular comparing startup and maintenance costs.
- Generalize costs in Boston to be nationally-representative.
Their findings indicated that the total per-child costs for one year of prekindergarten in Boston ranged from $15,240 during a time of maintenance to $18,210 during a time of expansion. Systems costs comprised approximately 40% of the total costs of prekindergarten, consequently only 60% of the total cost of prekindergarten was in additive costs. This finding is strong evidence in support of combining prekindergarten with existing school systems as opposed to community or Head Start programs. Finally, the researchers found that the costs of a prekindergarten program would be about 15–25% higher in Boston than in the U.S. as a whole.
It is important that cost analysis in this area continue in order to provide evidence to education policy and replication.