Impact of the Introduction of Pre-Kindergarten Programs on Head Start Enrollment of Children with Disabilities
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The majority of existing studies on young children with disabilities focus on the positive effects of Head Start and pre-k program participation on both typically and non-typically developing children’s early academic skills (e.g., Barton et al., 2012; Phillips & Meloy, 2012). However, few studies have explored how the interaction between Head Start and pre-k, the two largest publicly funded early childhood programs, may influence the provision of preschool services for children with special needs. Bassok (2012) examined the impact of state pre-k on the enrollment of Head Start programs and found an overall collaborative relationship, suggesting that together the two programs are able to reach a broader group of eligible children. However, no study directly addresses how Head Start programs are impacted by pre-k program expansion with respect to serving children with disabilities.
Our study aims to fill this gap by examining the causal impact of the introduction of state pre-k programs on the Head Start enrollment of children with disabilities. We use a comprehensive administrative dataset on all Head Start programs nationwide, the Program Information Report, from 1988 to 2018. We exploit variation in the timing of states’ pre-k program implementation using a differences-in-differences design, including state-by-year fixed effects to capture unobserved state early education policy factors. Specifically, we ask three research questions:
1) Does the introduction of pre-k programs affect Head Start enrollment of children with disabilities?
2) How does the introduction of pre-k affect Head Start enrollment of children with different types of disabilities (e.g., health impairment, speech impairment)?
3) Does the effect of pre-k introduction on Head Start enrollment of children with disabilities vary by pre-k program type (universal vs. non-universal)?
Based on findings from prior research, we expect to find an increase of Head Start enrollment of children with disabilities with the introduction of state pre-k. The implementation of state pre-k could lead to a growth of total eligible population served by releasing relatively more spaces to children with disabilities who would otherwise have limited formal child care and education options.