Policy Strategies & Innovations Link copied!

Innovation Name Innovation Type Innovation Subtype Features at a Glance Strategy Summary
Partner Up! Grant Program Workforce Benefits

Helps child care businesses cover the cost of child care for employees

First implemented in June 2022, the Partner Up! grant program provides funding to help businesses purchase child care slots on behalf of their employees. Child care programs can apply as businesses to help cover the cost of child care expenses for their own staff. This program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act, the Preschool Development Grant, and Quality Jobs, Equity, Strategy and Training.

Learn more: Partner up! Grant Program

Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. (n.d.). Partner Up! Grant Program.

Wisconsin Early Childhood Integrated Data System Infrastructure Systems Data Systems

Early Childhood Integrated Data System

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Department of Health Services (DHS) and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) have hosted the state’s Early Childhood Integrated Data System (ECIDS)since 2017. The system fosters data-sharing agreements and a data-sharing process for the agencies' demographic, program, and individual data on early childhood services, including child care subsidies, child support, birth records, early health records, maternal health, attendance, and enrollment. The system uses a matching system and encrypted file manager tool to upload deidentified data to an ECIDS portal for researchers’ and agencies’ projects and analyses. The Wisconsin ECIDS compliments the Department of Public Instruction’s WiseDash system, which contains deidentified individual data available by request.

The system is funded through a federal Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant.

Learn more: Wisconsin's Early Childhood Integrated Data System (ECIDS)
Wisconsin Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Expansion Universal Pre-K Policy (3-Year-Olds) Universal Pre-K Policy (4-Year-Olds) More Than 60% of Children Served (4-Year-Olds)

Percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled (as of 2022): 61%
Percentage of 3-year-olds enrolled (as of 2022): 1%
Minimum hours of operation: 2.5 hrs/day

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 universal, 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.

Learn More: Wisconsin Four-Year-Old Kindergarten

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.

REWARD Wisconsin Workforce Bonuses and Supplemental Pay Professional Learning

$500 to $1,900 per educator per year, with an average supplement of $615

Wisconsin's REWARD program provides supplemental pay to early childhood educators based on their education level and commitment to their early education program. REWARD is designed to retain and support the professional development of early childhood educators; in turn, this creates a more stable workforce with the skills needed to support young children's healthy learning and development. Supplements range from $500 to $1,900 per educator per year, with an average payment of $615. Amounts increase as educators obtain more formal education, and educators must remain in their early education program for at least six months to qualify for an award. In FY22, REWARD provided supplements to 11,381 early educators; turnover among recipients was 1%, which is much lower than the estimated 26-40% turnover rate among educators in licensed child care programs nationwide.

Learn More: REWARD Program

Wisconsin AEYC. (n.d.). REWARD Wisconsin.

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Demographics Link copied!

State population

5,892,539 Source U.S. Census, 2022

Rural %

32.9% Source U.S. Census, 2020

Urban %

67.1% Source U.S. Census, 2020

Number of children age 0-4

320,245 Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Poverty levels – children 0-8 below 200% poverty

35% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Median family income among households with children

$87,000.00 Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Unemployment rate

3.2% Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2022

Unemployment rate of parents

4% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Children under age 6 with all available parents in the labor force

73% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Children living in households with a high housing cost burden

21% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

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Child population by race and ethnicity Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Race and Ethnicity

  • American Indian and Alaska Native (1%)
  • Asian (4%)
  • Black or African American (9%)
  • Hispanic or Latino (13%)
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (0.5%)
  • Two or More Races (4%)
  • White, not Hispanic or Latino (66%)
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Political Landscape Link copied!

Source: Ballotpedia 2023

Early Childhood Education Programs Link copied!

Public pre-K program name

Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Program (4K) Source: NIEER 2023

Universal or targeted pre-K policy

Universal Pre-K Policy (4-Year-Olds) Source: NIEER 2023

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Percent of population enrolled in public early childhood education programs Source: NIEER 2023


  • Children enrolled in 3-year-old state-funded public pre-K (0.05%)
  • 3-yeard-old Children enrolled in Head Start (12%)
  • Other/none (87.95%)
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Percent of 4 year-old population enrolled in public early childhood education programs Source: NIEER 2023


  • Children enrolled in 4-year-old state-funded public pre-K (61%)
  • 4-year-old children enrolled in Head Start (8%)
  • Other/none (31%)
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Workforce Link copied!

2017–2019 Median Hourly Wages Source CSCCE 2018, 2020


  • Child care workers
  • Preschool teachers
  • Preschool or child care center directors
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Funding Sources Link copied!

Federal and State Early Childhood Education Funding (in millions) Source First Five Years Fund, 2022

Funding source

  • Head Start and Early Head Start Funding ($164.7)
  • CCDBG & Mandatory Funds ($136.5)
  • CCDBG State Match ($14.9)
  • CCDBG COVID Relief Allocations – CARES, CRRSE, ARPA (CCDF & Stabilization) ($780.2)
  • State-Funded Pre-K ($148.6)
  • MIECHV ($9.6)
  • IDEA Part C ($11)
  • IDEA Part B, Sec 619 ($14.7)
  • TANF Early Learning and Care Expenditures ($195.8)
  • Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five ($13)
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Funding acronyms: CCDBG: Child Care and Development Block Grant; CARES Act: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; CRRSE Act: Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations; ARPA: American Rescue Plan Act; CCDF: Child Care and Development Fund; MIECHV: Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The COVID Funding Cliff

All federal COVID relief allocations, including funding authorized by the CARES, CRRSE, and ARPA bills, must be fully spent by September 2024. An analysis from the Century Foundation shows this loss of funds could cause more than 3 million children to lose access to child care nationwide – including more than 87,000 children in Wisconsin.