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Our key allies in California are Advancement Project and Children Now. Advancement Project works alongside community partners to transform public systems and shift investments to achieve racial equity. Children Now serves as a hub for supporting and connecting thousands of groups in California to create an unprecedented power base for young children birth through age 26, employing research, policy, communications, and advocacy strategies to advance a range of children’s issues: early childhood, education reform, children’s health, foster care and juvenile justice.

State Early Childhood Policy Environment and 2021 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.

Advocacy Landscape:

Policy Landscape and Progress:

$155.9B State Budget

Estimated FY2021 State General Fund Expenditures

House (D), Senate (D),
Governor (D)

2021-2022 Biennium
(12/7/20 - 9/10/21)

1,531,920 Young Children (0-8) are Below 200% FPL


Percentage of Children 0-8 Living in Households Below 200% FPL

The 2021 legislative session represented a historic infusion of funding from state and federal sources, during a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Following on the heels of an uncertain presidential and congressional election, this session required a pivot from a proposed lean budget to identifying multiple, multi-billion-dollar opportunities to fund one-time investments that could move the ECE field forward. Ultimately, the state budget included a commitment to expand TK for all 4-year-olds within the public education system, a move that will dramatically change the landscape of early learning and child care in California and require thoughtful advocacy and continued investments to ensure the entire early childhood/ECE workforce is brought along and that ultimately, outcomes for young children and their families improve as a result.

The 2021 legislative session highlighted the importance of maintaining a strong, long-term vision.

In California, the biggest forum for early childhood policy and investment is the annual state budget process. As such, the vast majority of Children Now’s advocacy — and related successes — this year occurred within the context of the 2021-22 California state budget, signed by Governor Newsom on July 23, 2021.

It was an important year of wins for young children and their families:

    • AB 1363. Creates a standardized process that identifies and supports K-12 dual language learners at an early age.
    • SB 682. Establishes The End Racial Inequities in Children’s Health Initiative, or EnRICH CA, and calls on the California Health and Human Services Agency to work with relevant departments to develop and implement a plan to reduce by at least half racial disparities in childhood chronic diseases by 2030, including asthma, diabetes, depression, dental caries, and vaping-related diseases. Chronic childhood diseases affect one in four children statewide, or more than 2 million children. Approximately 74% are children of color. 
    • SB 428. Requires commercial health plans to provide coverage for adverse childhood experiences screenings beginning 2022. 
    • AB 1363  Creates a standardized process that identifies and supports K-12 dual language learners at an early age.
    • State budget. Key highlights of priority issues, including over $5B in early childhood programs and services, include:
      1. Historic creation of a new, universal transitional kindergarten program for 4-year-olds
      2. Ratifies first-ever collective bargaining agreement with Child Care Providers United, the new labor union representing family child care home and license-exempt care providers including rate increases, licensing incentives, provider stipends and supplemental payments, paid non-operative days, pandemic flexibilities, a hold-harmless for child attendance in all early care and learning programs, mental health supports, and provider recruitment.
      3. Commits to 200,000 new child care slots across the mixed-delivery system
      4. $10 million to expand dual language immersion programs.
      5. $300 million to increase the number of state preschool or TK programs and provide additional pre-k teacher training.
      6. $490 million to support the building and renovating of state preschool, TK and kindergarten facilities.
      7. Family fees for subsidy-funded child care are waived until June 30, 2022
      8. Takes long overdue steps to increase and reform rates, which are critical to ensuring that providers, who are mostly women of color, earn a living wage for the critical care they provide.
      9. Funds $250M in a combination of one-time federal funds and the General Fund to the Early Learning and Care Infrastructure Block Grant
      10. Finalizes the consolidation of child care programs under a new Child Care and Development Division within the Department of Social Services
      11. The budget provides $10 million to expand dual language immersion programs.
      12. $300 million to increase the number of state preschool or TK programs and provide additional pre-k teacher training.
      13. It invests $490 million to support the building and renovating of state preschool, TK and kindergarten facilities.
      14. Approves funding of $30M General Fund/TANF in 2022-23, and on-going to restore a reduction made in the 2020 Budget for the CalWORKs Home Visiting Program
      15. Extends sunset date for an enhanced paid family leave wage replacement rate by one additional year
      16. Invests $4.7M toward development of an Integrated Early childhood Development Data system
      17. Invests an historic $4.4B over five years to create a new, modern, and innovative behavioral health system for children and youth ages 0 to 25, including $205M for the Mental Health Student Services Act to fund school and county mental health partnerships to support the mental health and emotional needs of children and youth as they return to schools and everyday life.
      18. Shores up public health system and infrastructure to address preventable death and disease, reduce health disparities, and support an agile public health workforce. Some funding will help begin to implement the EnRICH CA Initiative, a strategy for the State to eliminate racial disparities in chronic childhood health conditions.
      19. Provides new reimbursement for Community Health Workers, Doula services, access to telehealth, and dyadic care benefits to serve Medi-Cal members
      20. Extends Madi-Cal coverage from 60 days to 12 months for postpartum individuals
      21. Supports implementation of several pieces of the CalAIM reform proposal, including authorizing funding for the Population Health Management Service and the In Lieu Of Services benefit for Asthma Remediation
      22. Continues Prop 56 Medi-Cal provider payments that support children’s health services and screenings
      23. Improves health care affordability for families, including subsidies that would make Covered California premiums as low as one dollar
      24. Restores $4.6M to the State Office of Oral Health and includes provisional language to specify that other state resources will backfill reductions in Proposition 56 tobacco tax revenue to ensure a $30M annual allocation
      25. $222.4M for county prevention services and activities to be implemented under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). Counties may elect to provide prevention services under FFPSA. During first year of implementation, bill would allow counties to use the state funding allocated by providing a written notice to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) while the county continues to develop a comprehensive written plan that includes a continuum of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention and intervention strategies and services to support the ability for parents and families to provide safe, stable, and nurturing environments for their children, in accordance with instructions issued by CDSS.
      26. $92.5M for the Bringing Families Home program, for use through June 30, 2024, which provides housing-related supports to eligible families in child welfare system who are experiencing homelessness. Bill will also modify the definition of “homeless” and expand the definition of “eligible family” to include a family that is at risk of homelessness or in a living situation that cannot accommodate the child or multiple children in the home.
      27. Allows an expectant foster youth to receive the infant supplement three months before birth to meet specialized needs of the expectant foster youth and prepare for infant’s needs
      28. $25M to provide additional support for Unaccompanied Undocumented Minors by providing legal and immigration services and connection to other critical services
    • CA S 93. Requires an employer to offer its laid-off employees specified information about job positions that become available for which the employees are qualified, and to offer positions to those employees based on a preference system. Requires an employer to keep certain records. Requires an employer that declines to recall such employee for certain reasons to provide the employee with certain written notice. Prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against a person for seeking to enforce their rights.1
    • Elimination of Prop 56 Supplemental Provider Payment Suspension: Prop 56 Medi-Cal payments have supported access to children’s health services, like well-child visits, developmental screenings, pediatric specialty care, and trauma screenings. The 2019 and 2020 Budget Acts included language to suspend expenditures for this important program. In 2021, the language was again proposed. However, thanks to advocacy by Children Now and partners, the Legislature proposed eliminating the suspension altogether, a change which was ultimately included in the 2021-22 final budget.
    • Extension of Increased Wage Replacement Level in Paid Family Leave: Currently, CA’s PFL program provides a cash benefit set at 60% of “base period” wages for up to 6 weeks for those above FPL and 70% for those below FPL. Due to extensive advocacy from Children Now, other partners, and leadership from the Legislature, the 2021-22 state budget, which originally had no action from the Administration to address the significant drop in wage replacement levels that families would experience, extended the enhanced wage replacement rate until January 1, 2023.

Influencing Federal Relief Funding
Children Now, in collaboration with state partners, successfully advocated for use of California’s federal relief funding for emergency child care vouchers for essential workers and at-risk families, provider stipends, paying child care providers based on enrollment not attendance and waiver of family fees for the duration of the state of emergency and beyond. During the state budget process, advocates raised questions regarding the lack of transparency regarding California’s ARPA funding and the significant funding that remained unallocated, urging for prompt release of those funds to struggling providers and families.

Children Now worked with partners across the areas of K-12 education, health care, child welfare and human services to inform and influence use of federal relief funds from CARES, ARPA and CRRRSAA packages. Advocates shaped how the state distributed the state portion of the federal dollars for schools, and advocates supported the adoption of the Medicaid 12-month postpartum coverage extension allowed under ARPA, enhancement for SNAP, funding to stabilize pediatric medical practices, extension of eligibility for Extended Foster Care, and direct cash assistance to current and former foster youth.

California Advocacy Snapshot:

California Early Childhood Policy Advocacy

Hard Work in California Wins Continuing Expansions of Evidence-Based Home Visiting

Alliance for Early Success’ California ally, Children Now, continues to push for expansion of voluntary evidence-based home visiting in California. Read about the state’s significant progress that is projected to double evidence-based home visiting, and about the critical work still ahead that will reduce complexity across funding streams and set the foundation for further expansion over the long term.

Read More »


National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Early Care and Education Bill Tracking, Searchable Database for 2021. August 2021.


National Center for Children in Poverty, “NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample, 2019.” Provided to the Alliance for Early Success, November 2020.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). 2021 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 1, 2021. August 2021.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Early Care and Education Bill Tracking, Searchable Database for 2021. August 2021.

Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau. “Population of Children Aged 0 to 8 (2019),” (as cited in Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kids Count Data Center). November 2020.  

State Grantees of the Alliance for Early Success, Survey and Analysis by Frontera Strategy, September-November 2021.

Vesey White, Kathryn, et al. (Spring 2021). “Table 4: Fiscal 2020 State General Fund, Estimated (Millions),” The Fiscal Survey of States. National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). August 2021.

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data:



Top Alliance Grantee Priorities in California for 2022

Advocate for the inclusion of regional community data indicators that expose systemic inequities as part of California’s new early learning and care dashboard. (Advancement Project)

Improve our ability to identify strategies for potential funding streams that can fund a more equitable early learning system. (Advancement Project)

Ensure California invests in the ECE workforce to promote stability, build aligned professional standards linked to higher compensation, promote a state-level infrastructure, and address pandemic-related challenges. (Children Now)

Educate and inform the California Department of Finance and state legislature stakeholders about facilities funding and wellness hubs, evidence-based centers with wraparound family services. (Advancement Project)

Build our capacity to write policy recommendations with an equity focus that ensures we keep community voice centered in program implementation. (Advancement Project)

Continue to deepen our partnerships with grassroots parent leaders and providers to ensure our policy recommendations reflect the reality of families and the workforce. (Children Now)

Ensure equity is included in early learning and care policy proposals by expanding and diversifying the organizations advocating within our Whole Child Equity Coalition. (Advancement Project)

Ensure California uses an equity focused approach to investing federal funding for ECE, aligned to support the comprehensive needs of the most marginalized children first. (Children Now)

Building on our extensive policy expertise, ensure our ECE communications work centers racial equity, economic justice, and gender justice. (Children Now)