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OKFutures

Quality Improvement

Overview

For this portion of the grant, OPSR made systems-level recommendations to improve the overall quality of Oklahoma's early childhood system. OPSR addressed challenges and sought consultation with external experts. In addition, OPSR utilized the OKFutures Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan to develop an evaluation of system and program quality and effectiveness as well as successful outcomes for children and their families.

OPSR will continue to engage stakeholders to periodically update the Program Performance Evaluation (PPE) plan to align with the OKFutures Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan as they evolve.

As part of OKFutures, OPSR sought to understand the cost of quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) in our state. By working with the RAND Corporation, OPSR gained insight into the estimated per-child cost of ECCE for Oklahoma's infants, toddlers and preschoolers as well as a cost model that considers fundamental early childhood care and education cost drivers.

The RAND Corporation is an internationally renowned, nonprofit research organization focused on solving public policy challenges.

 

Click here to learn more about the RAND Corporation.

Why This Study?

This study and subsequent report was funded via OKFutures (the Preschool Development Grant – Birth Through Five (PDG B-5)) to help understand the “true” cost of early childhood care and education (ECCE) in the state of Oklahoma. The study estimates how costs can vary with quality and aims to inform Child Care Subsidy program reimbursement rates.

Click to read the final report: "Estimating the Cost of Quality Early Childhood Care and Education in Oklahoma" by the RAND Corporation.

About

During 2019, the RAND Corporation collected data from 25 non-Head Start center- and home-based ECCE providers* throughout Oklahoma to understand their program structure and the associated expenditures of the most recently completed fiscal year. This information supported estimation of the per-child cost of care by child age, setting and quality rating. The study aimed to address the following two questions:

  1. What is the estimated per-child cost of ECCE in the state for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children?
  2. What are the fundamental ECCE cost drivers such as provider scale, ages of children served, quality level, geographic region, and key structural parameters (e.g., staff-child ratio, teacher qualifications, and compensation)?

*Please note that while this study was not intended to provide a representative sample, the data collected from the sampled providers supported the development of a cost model that was used to examine the most important cost drivers and the implications for per-child cost of care.

Key Findings

A. Provider Survey Data

  • There is tremendous variation in program operations.
  • Low compensation is a common feature.
  • Revenue sources vary across center- and home-based settings.
  • Many licensed ECCE providers do not have well-organized financial records.

B. Provider Cost Data

  • Estimates of per-child cost for the sampled providers vary widely.
  • Family child care home providers vary in their reported compensation of the owner/operator and to the extent that housing costs were deducted.
  • Variation extends to the extent that costs would be covered by subsidy reimbursement rates.

C. Cost Model

  • Staff-child ratio is a key cost driver of lower per-child center cost as children age from infants to preschoolers.
  • With assumptions about higher resource use for higher quality tiers, per-child costs increase with quality.
  • Underenrollment is another key driver of per-child costs.
  • Economies of scale are modest given assumptions.
  • Cost recovery given subsidy reimbursement rates vary.

D. Recommendations

  • Use cost information collected directly from providers and/or through cost modeling to reconsider the current Child Care Subsidy program reimbursement schedule. 
  • Consider options for tying higher subsidy reimbursement when higher quality rating tiers are achieved to increased spending on resources that matter for quality. 
  • Review participation in CACFP subsidies on the part of ECCE providers in the state.
  • Ensure that home-based providers have access to supports to improve their financial literacy and business practices.

Public Release

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, OPSR hosted a virtual webinar to present "Estimating the Cost of Quality Early Childhood Care & Education in Oklahoma." This event included opening remarks by Justin Brown, director, Oklahoma Department of Human Services and Cabinet Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Development as well as a presentation by Lynn A. Karoly and Stephanie J. Walsh with the RAND Corporation. In addition, with over 100 attendees, this event featured a lively Q&A session.

Below you'll find a recording of the presentation and powerpoint slideshow.

Program Performance Evaluation

The PPE plan was designed by third-party evaluators, Dr. Diane Horm and Dr. Erin Maher of the University of Oklahoma, and Mathematica, in collaboration with OKFutures committee and team members and staff from OPSR.

Mathematica is  a pioneering organization behind research and policy advancements across the U.S.

 

Click here to learn more about Mathematica.

PPE's Goal

The purpose of the PPE is to evaluate progress of the OKFutures Strategic Plan's goals and guide data-based decision making and continuous quality improvement (CQI) efforts. The PPE aims to assess the progress of OKFutures’ vision that all of Oklahoma’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers are prepared for healthy, happy and successful lives. It examines formative and summative research questions to inform implementation and CQI; track outcomes; and provide accountability to the governor, cabinet secretaries, state legislature, and families. 

Click here to access the OKFutures Final Program Performance Evaluation Plan.