education

Should the federal government fund and implement a national, free universal pre-K program?

Yes, free for everyone

Yes, free for everyone

Joe Biden

Former vice president

Biden supports a national, free universal pre-K program, his campaign told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Cory Booker

U.S. senator, New Jersey

“The federal government should guarantee that all children have access to high-quality pre-K. There are a number of ways to get there, and the federal government, states, local school boards, teachers and parents should all work together on policies that ensure no child in the country is without access to high-quality pre-K,” Booker told The Post. “I am a co-sponsor of legislation to guarantee universal access to early learning opportunities for all children by stipulating that no low- or middle-income family pays more than seven percent of their income on child care, while families who make 75 percent or less of their state’s median income will not have to pay anything at all.” Booker also co-sponsored’ Warren’s Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act. Booker believes pre-K should be considered an extension of K-5 education, so should be universal and free, his campaign told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker
Booker

Julian Castro

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro supports a national, free universal pre-K program, his campaign told The Post. While mayor of San Antonio, Castro offered free pre-K for four-year-olds from low-income families.

Candidate positions highlighted
Julian Castro
Castro

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. “In New York City, I worked with supporters to create universal, full-day, high quality Pre-K for every four year old — and we are on the path to expanding that to every three year old. Investing in education is absolutely essential to ensuring that every child has an equal starting point and a truly equal opportunity to live up to their potential,” de Blasio said on Facebook.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

“Delaney believes Pre-K through 14 education (two-year community college or technical training) is the new K-12 and that children should have it guaranteed,” his campaign website said. “While in Congress, Delaney introduced H.R. 3466, the Early Learning Act, which would provide every four-year-old child guaranteed access to a free Pre-K program, fully paid for by a surtax on high income earners of 1.5% on income over $500,000.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Gillibrand supports a national, free universal pre-K program, her campaign told The Post. “Every child deserves the same opportunities to learn, grow and reach their potential — which is why I would enactBiden supports a national, free universal pre-K program, his campaign told The Post. universal pre-K,” Gillibrand’s plan said.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Wayne Messam

Mayor, Miramar, Fla.

Messam supports a national, free universal pre-K program, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Wayne Messam
Messam

Beto O'Rourke

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke supports a national, free universal pre-K program, a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “If we believe in an economy that works for all, then let us invest in a world-class Pre-K through 12 public education system and ensure that we are paying our educators a living wage so that they don’t have to work a second or third job,” O'Rourke said in his campaign kick-off speech.

Candidate positions highlighted
Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Tim Ryan

U.S. representative, Ohio

“Yes, the federal government should fund and implement a national, free universal pre-K program and it should do it immediately,” Ryan told The Post. “It is imperative that all children have access to pre-kindergarten, which will help their cognitive development. That is why I support efforts to create universal pre-kindergarten, where [a] three-or four-year-old child in a state to be voluntarily enrolled by the child's parent, regardless of income, in the program at the public school in which the child would be enrolled for kindergarten.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tim Ryan
Ryan

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“Yes. In America today, we have a dysfunctional pre-K system ... [Sanders] believes we need a revolution in this country in terms of how we provide pre-K education,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “[Sanders] will guarantee childcare and universal prekindergarten for every child in America to help level the playing field, create new and good jobs, and enable parents to more easily balance the demands of work and home. The federal government will provide enough funding to implement this nationally.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak supports a national, free universal pre-K program, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

“Without guaranteed access to a good education, there’s no such thing as equal opportunity,” Steyer's campaign website said. “Our government must protect the right to a free, quality, public education from preschool through college and on to skills training.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

Marianne Williamson

Author

“Yes. The federal government should fund free universal pre-K immediately and work with the states for implementation,” Williamson told The Post. Her campaign site said, “universal quality education for all Americans, starting in pre-school and extending through college or technical school, should be available to all our citizens, in every neighborhood in America.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Yes, free for low-income families

Yes, free for low-income families

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet supports a universal pre-K program that would be free for low-income families, he told The Post. “We need preschool for every kid in America who needs it, and that’s every kid in America,” Bennet said at Essence Fest.

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bennet
Bennet

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar supports a national universal pre-K program that would be free for low-income families, she told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“[I]n February, I introduced my plan for universal child care and early education,” Warren told The Post. “Under my plan, high-quality child care and early learning programs will be free for millions of American families, and affordable for everyone. The cost of this historic federal investment would be covered by just a quarter of the revenue from my Ultra-Millionaire tax.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Universal access, but cost unclear

Universal access, but cost unclear

Steve Bullock

Governor, Montana

“I’m pushing for universal access to pre-K so that every child can be put on the path to success,” Bullock told The Post. “While many states have taken steps towards public pre-K — including Montana, where we made our first public investment in pre-K during my administration — it will take leadership at the federal level to achieve quality universal pre-K. We should implement the program over a 6-year period in order to work out the kinks as we scale up.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Steve Bullock
Bullock

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. senator, California

Harris is a co-sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act, which supports “universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3- and 4-year olds,” according to the bill’s supporters.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kamala Harris
Harris

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. “All communities should have a public pre-K option for 3- and 4-year-olds. The federal government can play a supportive role, particularly in tax policy, to support working families,” Hickenlooper told The Post. “Governor Hickenlooper supports tax incentives and sliding scale support to make sure every family can afford to go to work and meet their childcare and children’s educational needs. States and communities should implement pre-K programs.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. “Funding would be provided to states investing in high-quality early education, including by expanding preschool for 3-4 year olds for eligible families across the country and expanding access to full-day kindergarten,” Inslee's campaign website said. Inslee supports the Child Care for Working Families Act, which aims to provide “universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3- and 4-year olds,” according to the bill’s supporters.

Candidate positions highlighted
Jay Inslee
Inslee

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. Moulton is a co-sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act, which supports “universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3- and 4-year olds,” according to the bill’s supporters.

Candidate positions highlighted
Seth Moulton
Moulton

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

Yang’s website said he will “[d]irect the Department of Education to work with states to create a plan for universal pre-kindergarten education.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

Unclear/no response

Unclear/no response

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Hover for more information

Tap for more information

Background High-quality early childhood education can help set students up for success in kindergarten, so there has been a surge of interest in new programs, including subsidies based on income, and across-the-board free pre-K as part of the public schools.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. education policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports. See something we missed? Let us know.

We expect candidates to develop more detailed policy positions throughout the campaign, and this page will update as we learn more about their plans. We also will note if candidates change their positions on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president or an exploratory committee. The Post will contact additional candidates as they enter the race and include them here.

Curious about where candidates stand on another policy? Fill out this suggestion form.