The federal grant competition is divided into two strands: one for states just getting started with preschool, and another for states that already have well-established programs.
Infants, other children, and teenagers are generally not receiving all the preventive care that is recommended for them, according to the federal health agency.
The research, conducted by the College Board, showed that students with earliest birthdays in their kindergarten cohort were more likely to take and pass Advanced Placement tests and graduate from college in 4 years.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan talked about the $250 million grant competition during his annual back-to-school bus tour, which took him through Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
Though a poll found broad support for increased federal pre-K funding, Republicans, at 53 percent, were much less likely than Democrats, at 87 percent, to support it.
Making preschool universal for 4-year-olds in the city was a signature promise in Bill de Blasio's successful campaign for mayor.
Opportunity Nation, a group advocating for preschool expansion, has given communities "opportunity scores" based on several indicators, including preschool enrollment.
A lot is riding on the successful rollout of universal pre-K in New York City, which was a major campaign promise of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The $240 million grant program has separate tracks for states just getting off the ground with preschool, and for states that already have robust programs.
What was billed as the first Preschool Nation Summit, held in New York City, brought together education leaders to discuss best practices for early-childhood education.