Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

Infrastructure Systems

  • Administrative + Governance Models


In 2004, Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Assembly created Creation Model: A few states have looked to create new entities responsible for managing all early learning and early childhood programs across the state. These offices become executive branch entities or new departments, and they typically hold most of the early childhood programs and responsibilities . Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) by merging the office of school readiness units in the department of human resources, the department of education and the Georgia Child Care Council. DECAL administers the state’s pre-K program, licensed child care, federal nutrition programs, and the community-powered child care rating system. It also houses the state’s Head Start collaboration office. The department reports to a board, which consists of representation from each congressional district. At the same time, the Georgia State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care merged with the Georgia Children’s Cabinet to help guide policies and leadership on early childhood initiatives by having several agencies and entities collaborate on coordinated goals.

The creation of a new department will not automatically create better outcomes for children, but it can help provide the structure and coordination needed to improve early education quality and accessibility across a state or city (Kagan & Gomez, 2015).


Education Commission of the States (2021). Early Care and Education Governance.
Kagan, L. and Gomez, R. (Eds.). (2015) Early Childhood Governance: Choices and Consequences. Teachers College Press.

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

Strong infrastructure and systems – including governance structures and data systems – are key aspects of high-quality early education and care. And research suggests there is a need for more accessible, affordable, and high-quality early education within a mixed-delivery system; strengthening infrastructure and systems is one important way states and cities can take action to address these needs and accomplish these goals.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) that connect to the need for more robust infrastructure and systems, including data systems:

  • 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.
  • No one early education setting type is inherently of higher quality than another; children develop and learn well in every setting type, and in the study, all setting types showed room to grow in quality.
  • We have learned a great deal from this groundbreaking, large-scale study. Nevertheless, there is still much to learn about what children, families, and educators need, and about what “works” – for whom and under what circumstances – across all the diverse settings where young children learn and grow.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Georgia

Context matters. Visit the Georgia profile page to learn more about its demographics, political landscape, early education programs, early education workforce, and funding sources and streams.

Visit the Georgia Profile Here
  • The state population is 10,912,876
  • The percentage of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce is 65%
  • The rural percentage is 25.9%