“The King Street Center charges tuition no higher than the state’s subsidy rate, so qualifying families pay nothing for childcare. For a child attending full time, tuition is about $186 per week, Smith said. The cost of delivering that care is much higher.

“We could never ever make it on what the subsidy pays,” she said. “Not for an hour.”

To make up the difference, the nonprofit relies on other government grants and private philanthropy. If the state wanted to pay the actual cost of providing care at a five-star quality level, Smith said, those weekly payments would have to be closer to $250 per enrollee.”