Number and percentage of children enrolled in high-quality Early Childhood Education programs (as evidenced by meeting National Accreditation and/or Texas Rising Star 4 Star level criteria)
The graphic to the right shows the percentage of children ages 0-5 years from families with low income who attend high-quality early childhood education programs, including programs with a Texas Rising Star (TRS) 4-star rating, national accreditation, and/or are an Early Head Start or Head Start (EHS/HS) program in Austin-Travis County. This rate was determined by dividing the total number of children in subsidized child care or in EHS/HS who attended child care programs with one of these quality ratings by the total number of children enrolled in subsidized child care and EHS/HS. Access to high-quality early child care and education is inequitable in Austin-Travis County due in part to lack of public funding for child care for families with low income. The return on investment (ROI) for high-quality child care is calculated at $13.70 for every $1 invested.
Between 2018 and 2022 the percentage of children ages 0-5 years from families with low income who attend a high-quality early education program has fluctuated between a low of 53% (in 2018) and a high of 67% (in 2021). Over the years, there has also been fluctuation in the overall number of children enrolled in early education programs. In 2022, both the percentage of children enrolled in high-quality care and the overall number of children enrolled in early education programs decreased from the year prior. There are a variety of possible reasons that fewer children are being served by programs with high-quality ratings, including:
- Several high-quality programs closed at the beginning of 2022 and were not included in the calculation of quality programs for this metric; and
- There are a few programs serving large numbers of children who receive child care scholarships that seem to have lost stars for their Texas Rising Star 4-star level certification in 2022.
Note: To see the underlying trend chart data, please select the "View Source Data" link above.
The number of children enrolled in programs with a Texas Rising Star rating will likely increase over the next year as more programs who accept child care scholarships achieve Texas Rising Star certification. According to Texas law, child care and early learning programs that have Child Care Scholarship (CCS) agreements with Texas Workforce Boards as of October 3, 2022, will have 24 months (until September 30, 2024) to achieve Texas Rising Star certification. Currently, all programs with CCS agreements either have an “entry level” designation with no quality rating or they have a quality star-level certification.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children enrolled in child care programs in 2020 may have been inflated. There are two main reasons for this. First, the Texas Workforce Commission suspended attendance reporting requirements between mid-March and July 2020, meaning there is not reliable information during that time period on child enrollment numbers. Second, with intermittent child care program closures throughout the year, it is not possible to determine if the number of children served by child care programs in 2020 includes a duplication of children.
Child care programs continue to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations and face challenges that threaten to further reduce the availability of affordable high-quality child care. The pandemic hurt programs financially, and programs are still struggling to hire and retain staff and to cover the high operating costs for infant and toddler programs. The City of Austin allocated COVID-19 relief funds to help support child care programs, including premium pay stipends for child care teachers.
Despite these relief efforts, several child care centers closed between 2020 and 2022. A higher percentage of centers without quality ratings closed compared to centers with quality ratings. This may be due, at least in part, to some COVID-19 relief efforts being focused on quality-rated programs and those serving families with low income.
The child care sector will continue to need additional financial support to survive. Austin Public Health will continue efforts to bolster high-quality child care programs; encourage programs to provide a livable wage to workers; and work with partners to increase the availability of affordable, high-quality child care for families with low income.
Additional Measure Insights
There is work to be done to close the kindergarten readiness gap between children, based on socioeconomic factors, such as income and race & ethnicity. For example, prior to the pandemic, in school year 2019-2020, only 38% of children from families with low income in Travis County were kindergarten ready, as compared to 61% of children from households that were not low income. There were similar gaps based on race and ethnicity. According to that same data from Ready, Set, K! in 2019-2020, 34% of Black children and 41% of Hispanic children were considered to be school ready, compared to 65% of white children. (These data have not been collected since the start of the pandemic.) To address the school readiness gap, the City of Austin should continue to make investments to help more families of color and children from households with low income access high-quality child care.
Access to high-quality child care in a child’s first 5 years, when 90% of brain development occurs, provides foundational experiences for children to develop the skills they will need to succeed in school. Lack of access to high-quality child care disproportionately affects children from families with low income. In Austin-Travis County in 2022, 20% of children ages 0-5 years from families with low income were in programs with no quality rating.
It is less clear what differences exist in access to high-quality child care between children of different racial and ethnic groups in Austin-Travis County. However, it is likely that lack of access to high-quality child care also impacts families of color more than other families, given that in 2021 90% of children living in poverty in Travis County were children of color. There is not a system at the local or the state level to track race and ethnicity information of all children enrolled in licensed or registered programs. The only Travis County race and ethnicity data available on children in care comes from children enrolled in the child care scholarship program through the local Workforce Solutions board and from children enrolled in a local Head Start program. These data show that across all racial or ethnic groups, most children ages 0-5 years from families with low income were enrolled in a high-quality child care program in 2022:
- Of the children with race/ethnicity not specified, 50% were in high-quality programs (Texas Rising Star (TRS) 4-star, nationally accredited, and/or Early Head Start/Head Start programs); 57% of non-Hispanic Black children were in high-quality programs; 58% of non-Hispanic white children were in high-quality programs; 61% of children of some other race or multiracial were in high-quality programs; and 66% of Hispanic or Latino children were in high-quality programs.
- All racial/ethnic groups had similar rates of enrollment in TRS 3-star programs (14-17% of children within each group). Groups were also similar in their generally low rate of enrollment in TRS 2-star programs (2-6% of children within each group).
- Twenty-seven percent of children whose race/ethnicity was either not specified or not tracked were enrolled in a program with no quality rating, followed by 26% of non-Hispanic white children; 23% of non-Hispanic Black children; 19% of children of some other race or multiracial; and 17% of Hispanic/Latino children.*
Of the children currently accessing child care scholarships, we do not see a racial or ethnic disparity in accessing high-quality care. This may be because there is a disproportionate representation of children of color in these data because children of color are more likely to live in households with low income and in need of child care scholarships. Within each level of quality, there were more non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic/Latino children enrolled than other racial or ethnic groups:
- Among programs at the TRS entry-level or programs with no quality rating, 34% were non-Hispanic Black children; 34% Hispanic/Latino; 10% non-Hispanic white; 11% some other race or multiracial; and 11% race/ethnicity not specified/tracked.
- For TRS 2-star programs, 35% were non-Hispanic Black children; 36% Hispanic/Latino; 3% non-Hispanic white; 11% some other race or multiracial; and 14% race/ethnicity not specified/tracked.
- For TRS 3-star programs, 33% were non-Hispanic Black children; 38% Hispanic/Latino; 7% non-Hispanic white; 13% some other race or multiracial; and 9% race/ethnicity not specified/tracked.
- In high-quality programs, 29% were non-Hispanic Black children; 45% Hispanic/Latino; 7% non-Hispanic white; 12% some other race or multiracial; and 7% race/ethnicity not specified/tracked.*
*Please note, these percentages represent a subset of children in child care and do not represent the demographics of all children in child care across Austin-Travis County. The data on race/ethnicity of children in care in these tables is restricted to data from Workforce Solutions Capital Area on children whose families receive child care scholarships and from local Early Head Start/Head Start providers.
Measure Details and Definition
1) Definition: This measure demonstrates how many children from families with low income aged 0-5 years in Austin-Travis County attended high-quality child care programs (licensed centers or licensed/registered homes), including Early Head Start/Head Start programs and programs with a Texas Rising Star 4 Star quality rating or National Accreditation. For this measure, children from families with low income are defined as children receiving a child care scholarship (subsidy) through Workforce Solutions or the YWCA Bridge Child Care Subsidy program or being enrolled in Early Head Start or Head Start. The measure only includes programs that serve at least one child receiving a child care scholarship and provide at least 6 hours of child care per day for families. Before- and after-school and drop-in child care programs are excluded from this measure.
2) Calculation method: We calculated this measure using the formula:
Numerator = Children receiving a child care scholarship who are enrolled in a high-quality program + children in EHS/HS programs
Denominator = All children receiving a child care scholarship + children in EHS/HS programs regardless of the quality of the program
3) Data Collection Process: United Way for Greater Austin, the backbone organization for the community’s Success By Six Coalition provides this data to the City. The data sources on children receiving child care scholarships are Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, and the YWCA Greater Austin. Child Inc. and the Austin Independent School District are the data sources for information on Early Head Start/Head Start.
A special note on the race and ethnicity data provided in the “Additional Measure Insights” section: These data were taken from the children in care report by Workforce Solutions Capital and Rural Capital Areas and from data provided by Child Inc. Head Start. Only data from programs located in Austin-Travis County that serve infants, toddlers, and children up to 5-years-old is included. Percentages, not counts, are included, because it was not possible to match up these demographic data 1:1 with the data for the high-quality child care metric due to the various timepoints that the demographic data were collected.
4) Measure Target Calculation: The target of 70% was set in 2018 by the Austin-Travis County Success By Six Coalition as part of the Coalition’s 5-year strategic plan, as an ambitious yet achievable goal to achieve by the end of 2023.
5) Frequency Measure is Reported: Annually, by calendar year
Date page was last updated: May 2023