California Makes Progress in Early Learning

Early learning has come a long way in California. After the crisis of the Great Recession, with more than $1 billion lost for early learning, California’s economy is improving.

Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, for the first time in many years, saw the beginnings of reinvestment. The previous funding level was dangerously low for the sustainability of the state’s ECE system and the education of our youngest children.

The 2014-15 California budget included a nearly $273 million investment which will expand access, improve quality, and support providers serving low income children. This is the largest investment for our youngest children in more than a decade thanks to the strong advocacy from early learning partners, support from the Alliance for Early Success, and the leadership in the California State Legislature (including the Speaker, the Senate President Pro Tempore and the Legislative Women’s Caucus). We also secured a promise to provide high-quality early learning for every low-income four year old in the coming years. While we had hoped for more, especially for our infants and toddlers, this is a strong step in the right direction and a down payment on the future of our youngest learners birth to age 5.

The 2014-15 California State Budget includes the following:

  • Child Care and State Preschool Quality:  An ongoing $50 million block grant for the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) and a $25 million investment in professional development for transitional kindergarten and State Preschool teachers. These offer the opportunity to advance quality, including strengthening teacher training and preparation, and encouraging equitable distribution of access to low-income children. The budget also calls for an increase in standards for transitional kindergarten teachers. Teachers assigned to classrooms after June 15, 2015 will have five years to obtain 24 units in early childhood education, comparable professional experience or a child development permit. The budget declares that the transitional kindergarten curriculum be aligned with the Preschool Learning Foundations which outline key knowledge and skills that most children can achieve when provided with a high-quality early learning experience.
  • Child Care and State Preschool Spaces:  $70 million to provide 11,500 full-day, full-year spaces in the California State Preschool Program for low-income four year olds from working families, $17 million to add 1,500 General Child Care and Alternative Payment spaces, $10 million in funding for facilities through the Revolving Loan Fund, and an additional $6 million to reflect growth in the population of children from birth to age 5.  The budget also makes a long-term commitment to providing 31,500 additional low-income four year olds access to preschool as budgeted in future years. 
  • Provider Rates and State Preschool Fees: $49 million to increase the standard reimbursement rate for state contracted providers, and $19 million to update the regional market rate for voucher based providers. The budget also provides $15 million to repeal the part day State Preschool family fees.
  • Beginning of Infant and Toddler Investment:  $8 million to restore Early Start services for infants and toddlers with substantial disabilities to pre-2009 budget levels, and $4 million for the California Black Infant Health program.

While we made tremendous progress and began to reinvest in our PreK programs, we must do more for our infants and toddlers. The Partnership will continue to advocate for increasing access and improving the quality of early experiences for our children starting at birth, ensuring effective implementation of what was done this year, and supporting the caregivers in our children’s lives.

For more details on the 2014-15 California Budget, please visit: http://lao.ca.gov/reports/2014/budget/spending-plan/california-spending-plan-080414.pdf

Molly Tafoya, Director of Communication
Early Edge California

Khydeeja Alam Javid, Manager of Governmental Relations
Advancement Project