In 1898, the Wisconsin State Legislature voted to permit schools to establish 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) alongside 5-year-old kindergarten (5K). 4K is now available to all children who turn 4 years old on or before September 1st of the school year. The program is universalUniversal Pre-K: programs in which the sole eligibility criterion is age., free, and voluntary for families, and it is offered through a mixed-delivery system. 4K’s delivery model is varied and includes half-day and full-day programs, offered across 97% of the state’s districts and in partner child care, Head Start, and private programs. Wisconsin received a Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five Renewal in 2021, which was used to conduct a needs assessment and development of a strategic plan to further expand access to public programs.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (n.d.). History of 4K and 5K in Wisconsin.
National Institute for Early Education Research. (2023). Wisconsin.
National Institute for Early Education Research. (2021). Wisconsin.
Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:
Learn More about ELS@H Findings
High-quality, affordable early education and care supports children’s healthy development and allows families to work, engage in their own educational pursuits, and/or participate in other aspects of community life. To support children and families in these instrumental ways, research suggests there is a need to expand the availability of early education opportunities across the mixed-delivery system.
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.