Is Pre-K Free? All You Need to Know About Free Pre-K and Support Programs

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Many parents believe sending their children to Pre-K to be a valuable opportunity for their child to develop important skills, socialize with peers, and establish a strong foundation for future learning.

Research shows that preschool benefits extend to the emotional, physical, social and cognitive strengths of the children.

So, Is Pre-K Free? No, pre-k isn’t free in every state. Some states offer free or subsidized Pre-K programs for eligible families, often prioritizing low-income households. Other states may offer Pre-K programs with tuition fees. 

Pre-school, sometimes referred to as play school, transitional kindergarten, or Pre-K, is an early educational program for children before the compulsory primary school. So, while the perks of Pre-K can make any parent beam with delight, it is quite expensive for a non-obligatory learning space.

It is indeed very costly. You see, pre-K programs are often doubled as “child care” which is labor-intensive, and that’s what makes the staff costs substantially high. But, how steep is it?

The Cost of Pre-K in the United States

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies reports that the average cost of preschool goes from around $4,400 to over $13,000 in a year, and that still depends on which state you live in the United States.

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    That’s probably way more than what you expected, correct? But listen, there’s good news—there are still many affordable preschools out there that don’t cut beyond your budget.

    Many schools are granting scholarships to low-income parents. There are also several government-funded programs that you can apply such as the following.

     HeadStart has provided free pre-K to millions of qualified families. Yes, eligible because this program isn’t offered to everybody for there are income base requirements to be met first.

     Pre-K 4SA is a limited government-sponsored program in San Antonio, Texas. The city has four preschool centers that offer free preschool for low-earning families.

    While many countries enjoy free pre-K for everyone, there are still a number of states in the United States that do not offer the same program at all.

    Which US States Offer Free Pre-K Programs?

    According to the non-profit national public media literary Reading Rockets, there are only three states that offer free pre-K for all 4-year-olds, consisting of the following.

    • Florida
    • Georgia
    • Oklahoma
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    Meanwhile, eleven states have some form of universal preschool program, even though there are gaps that may not cover the entire cost of preschool tuition. These states with partially free pre-K include.

    • Colorado
    • Iowa
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Michigan
    • Nebraska
    • Texas
    • Vermont
    • Washington D.C.
    • West Virginia
    • Wisconsin

    Other states that were not included in these lists have their own forms of free pre-K that aren’t accessible to every state resident. Again, different countries, states and school districts have their separate ways of measuring child readiness.

    Is Pre-K Free Online?

    There are a thousand online sites that offer free pre-K programs with corresponding preschool learning activities. However, quality-wise, it’s not going to be the same as in a classroom setting with other children and a well-trained teacher running the homeroom.

    That said, if you’re looking for great resources for affordable or free preschool options online, you can check out the following online programs.

    • CHALK Preschool
    • Beanstalk
    • Growing Brilliant
    • Scholastic Learn at Home
    • Khan Academy
    • Creative Kids Virtual Preschool

    What are Other Pre-K Solutions?

    When you move to a new place, where your child goes to school has a huge impact on where you choose to live.

    As parents, when it comes to your children’s education, you are somehow forced to get creative, and do extensive research to find ways to give your kids the best educational experience. 

    There here are several pre-K solutions that are available to support kids in their early phase of learning and development. Still, it is necessary to point out that education is continuously evolving, and in the long run, new solutions will likely emerge. But in the meantime, here are the most common pre-K solutions.

    Traditional Preschool

    This is the typical physical homeroom that children around the ages 3 to 5 go to. These programs center on foundational skills, necessary for learning and socialization.

    Online Pre-K Programs

    Hand in hand with technology, these are online pre-K programs that make use of resources online for interactive educational activities.


    Some parents opt to homeschool their kids, taking on an exciting journey of learning at home and making use of several educational resources and activities.

    Community-Based Preschool Programs

    Offering early access to learning opportunities, some communities have community centers and libraries that facilitate the educational journey of preschoolers.

    Educational Apps and Games

    Probably the most advanced take on learning, this pre-K solution offers interactive learning experience with the help of apps and games designed for kids.

    Before jumping on board with any of these pre-K solutions, you should first consider needs and preferences, both for you and the children. Remember, every program has its own perks and downsides, it’s commendable to do your research first, and consider various options to get to a well-informed decision for your child’s earliest phase of learning.

    The Future of Preschool

    As we move forward, so will the future of free preschool programs for everyone. According to a statement made by NIEER, “A positive trend is that the number of pre-K programs is growing in U.S. cities, and much of this growth is fueled by cities’ willingness to create new, local funding streams to establish and sustain the programs.”

    Related Questions:

    Is there a Bill Being Passed for Free Pre-K?

    When it comes to Congress, it’s hard to predict what comes next. But right now, it is quite unlikely that the free pre-K plan will be green-lighted. Considering the high cost that surrounds this program, it is not surprising at all. Perhaps the only way that it will pass in its current form is by doing many political trade-offs.

    But since the concept of universal preschool is gaining momentum, it is still possible that some form of free pre-K plan will roll out in the Congress in the near future. 

    How to Find a Free Preschool Program?

    You can start by looking at online options — there are actually quite a few to choose from. Or, you could reach out to your state’s preschool programs.

    Another great resource would be your school’s district. For sure, they do have a list on what programs are available, and evidently give you support as you go through applications. 

    Even better? These pre-K plans aren’t exactly income based, so you get to have fair chances at qualifying.

    You can find your school district online and from there,you can do your research. Once you’ve scanned through the lists of programs, you can make a call or send an email for inquiries. 

    Final Take on Free Pre-K

    So to sum up, pre-k isn’t free everywhere in the US. However, there are various programs and initiatives available to support parents who aren’t able to afford the cost of pre-k and those who need support managing pre-k costs.