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The Alliance for Early Success has two key allies in Wisconsin: Kids Forward and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association. Kids Forward provides research, public education, and advocacy for the development and implementation of equitable and inclusive public policy that improves child and family well-being in health, economic security, safety, and education. Wisconsin Early Childhood Association is the state affiliate of NAEYC, and engages in state level early childhood policy and budget work, including running advocacy campaigns and fully engaging their membership. 

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 35% (199,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 39% (236,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

On July 5, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed the state’s two year budget for fiscal 2024-2025 after issuing a series of line item vetoes. The budget calls for $49.7 billion in total spending in fiscal 2024, and $48.9 billion in total spending in fiscal 2025. The two-year budget is 11.7 percent higher than the adjusted base for the prior two-year budget. In addition, the budget calls for $23.0 billion in general fund appropriations for fiscal 2024, and $21.4 billion in general fund appropriations for fiscal 2025. General fund spending in the two-year budget is 9.9 percent higher than the adjusted base for the prior two-year budget. The enacted budget assumes general fund taxes of $21.3 billion in fiscal 2024 and $22.0 billion in fiscal 2025. The net general fund balance at the end of the biennium is estimated at $4.0 billion, or 7.5 percent.3

Largest Per Capita Revenue Sources (after federal transfers) (FY 2021):4

    • Property Taxes: $1,783 per capita
    • Individual Income Taxes: $1,537 per capita

Political Alignment: Divided

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was a Democrat.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Two

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters. (In Wisconsin, the state Constitution requires that amendments to the constitution must be approved by two consecutive legislatures, and then put to vote by the citizens.)
    • Legislature-Initiated Referenda – The referenda on Wisconsin ballots are either a legislature-initiated state statutes or advisory questions. (An advisory question is a type of ballot measure that is non-binding, meaning the outcome of the ballot measure has no legal effect on a state’s laws.)

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

The child care crisis continues to be a top story in Wisconsin. While the 2023-25 state budget did not include ongoing funding of Child Care Counts (the state’s child care stabilization program), the issue (and how to solve it) continues to be ongoing discussion across Wisconsin’s divided government. Frustrated with lack of Republican legislative movement on continuing Counts (especially with $7 billion state surplus), in October the Governor announced allocating $170 million in leftover pandemic funds to continue the Child Care Counts program through June 2025.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

Governor Special Session & Counts Continuation. In September, the Governor called a special session to address the state’s workforce crisis – centered largely investing $340 million of the state’s current surplus to continue a pandemic-funded program Child Care Counts to ensure child care providers can continue keep their doors open. Legislative republicans rebuffed the special session call, while the Governor directed $170 million in unspent pandemic funds to continue Child Care Counts through June 2025 – teeing up another fight for the 2025-27 state budget.

$15 million Set-Aside for Child Care Providers. In the 2023-25 state budget, the Republican-controlled legislature set-aside $15 million in one-time funds in the legislature’s supplemental appropriation for a child care revolving loan fund. The governor used his veto authority to remove the “loan requirement” for the funds. However, funding can’t be utilized until a separate “trailer bill” is passed by the legislature. Despite the Governor’s veto, the legislation establishes a revolving loan fund at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and limits the fund for capital expenditures. Even if the legislation passed and signed in to law, the WEDC would still need to request the $15 million be released by the legislative budget-writing committee.  

Increased funding for Stipends & Scholarships. The 2023-25 state budget also allocated additional federal funding for child care stipends and scholarships. The legislature’s budget allocated $5 million (federal funds) for the REWARD program, which provides stipends to child care providers. Using his partial veto authority, Governor Evers removed the limitation that the $5 million (federal funds) be just utilized for REWARD and allows DCF more flexibility to allocate the funds between REWARD and the TEACH program (child care scholarship program).

Medicaid Postpartum Extension Passes Republican-controlled Senate. Legislation (AB 114/SB 110) to provide Medicaid coverage for postpartum women for a full twelve months passed the Republican-controlled State Senate, however the bill remains stalled in the Assembly due to opposition from the Assembly leadership.

Opposition to Child Care “Regulatory” Reforms. With mounting pressure on address the child care crisis, Assembly Republicans fast-tracked a package of “regulatory” bills, including legislation to allow unsupervised 16-year olds be teaching assistants and loosening of the group child care ratios. The bills are still pending action in the Senate; however, the Governor has publicly criticized the package and is likely to veto should it make it to his desk. Child care advocates have opposed the bills. 

Shared Services Receives Funding. The 2023-25 state budget included $2.5 million (federal funds) to support the expansion of Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network. The program which supports child care providers was initially funded with philanthropic and then pandemic funds – was slated to end when the pandemic funds expired in 2024. This will extend the ability of the program to serve more programs and help reduce administrative and fiscal burdens for those child care providers.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantees in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) & Kids Forward, are working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce


Child and
Maternal Health

Infant & Child Health

Child Mental Health

Early Intervention (Age 0-3)

Maternal Health


Family Economic Security

Home Visiting

Early Childhood Infratructure


Click here and here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.


1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data: