Boston Public Schools Cost Estimation Model

Cost Estimation and Subsidy Rates

  • Cost Estimation Model

Boston, Massachusetts

Established in 2005, Boston’s Universal Pre-K (UPK) program, administered by the Boston Public Schools (BPS), offers free preschool for the city’s 3- and 4-year-olds in both public school buildings and community-based childcare organizations. Within a few years, it became apparent that the original funding level of $11,000 per child was inadequate and unsustainable for community-based child care organizations. BPS then partnered with the Children’s Funding Project to create a cost model that disaggregated program costs to expose differences based on program length and per-child and per-classroom costs. As a result, in school year 2022–23 BPS implemented a hybrid funding model for UPK classrooms in community-based programs. This new approach provides a base funding level per classroom that covers staff salaries and benefits and an additional funding allocation per UPK-eligible child enrolled in the program.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

States and cities can and should use cost estimation models to better understand the true cost of providing high-quality, affordable early education and care. These models should, in turn, be used to set subsidy rates that support fair, living wages for educators and promote a sustainable business model for all types of early education settings. Research suggests there is a need for more accessible, affordable, and high-quality early education opportunities across the mixed-delivery system – and for better financial and professional supports for the educators who serve children and families each day; measuring and funding the true cost of care can help states and cities address these needs and achieve these goals.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:

  • Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
  • But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.
  • Early educators play a critical role in supporting the well-being of young children and families across setting types.
  • Yet their pay, benefits, and other professional supports are often inadequate in light of the job demands and their cost of living.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Boston

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  • The city population is 654,776
  • The number of children under age 5 is 4.8%
  • The median family income among households with children is $77,600.00