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Our key allies in California are Catalyst California and Children Now. Catalyst California advocates for racial justice by building power and transforming public systems. We partner with communities of color, conduct innovative research, develop policies for actionable change, and shift money and power back into our communities. Children Now builds collective power that achieves transformative, equitable change for California’s kids. Our whole-child (prenatal to age 26), antiracist, connector model brings together million of diverse voices for California’s kids.

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% (1,400,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 44% (1,931,000) 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: Declining 

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the state’s fiscal 2024 budget into law on June 27. The budget provides for total state expenditures (excluding federal funds) of $310.8 billion for fiscal 2024. This includes $225.9 billion in general fund spending, a 3.7 percent decline from fiscal 2023. The budget is based on a general fund revenue forecast of $208.7 billion for fiscal 2024, representing a 1.5 percent increase from fiscal 2023.3

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

    • Property Taxes: $4,497 per capita
    • Individual Income Taxes: $3,952 per capita

Political Alignment: Aligned Democrat

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

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Six

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments 
    • Voter-Initiated Constitutional Amendments 
    • Voter-Initiated State Statutes
    • Legislature-Initiated State Statutes
    • Legislature-Initiated Bond Propositions
    • Veto Referenda

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

California advocates mobilized a strategic campaign with a major mobilization across multiple sectors with one ask – Commit to rate reform, including family fee reform, and make a multi-year investment and phase in towards a cost based model. The clear, unified ask made a world of difference, especially during a budget deficit year. The ask was both ambitious and multi-year, which has helps set expectations moving forward as we work to develop and implement an alternative cost-based rate model.

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

California child care and parent advocacy organizations collaborated closely with Child Care Providers United (CCPU) to craft a united campaign to support an ambitious rate reform budget ask and policy package, including reforming family fees. ECE received $2.8 billion, with $1.4 billion committed just to increasing rates, reflected in the final 2023-2024 State Budget, capped family fees at 1% and eliminating fees for families under 75% SMI, and made enrollment based reimbursement permanent.

The Governor led a major effort to overhaul the existing state funded mental health proposition to tackle homelessness – resulting in over $300 million loss to preventive services for children. Children Now and partners led a campaign to oppose the effort.The final version of the Governor’s proposal prioritized kids in prevention and early intervention areas, allowed children and youth to access services without needing a diagnosis, and required counties to prioritize infants and toddlers.

In supporting dual language (DLL)/multilingual learner children in California, we won a $20 million appropriation for the re-establishment of the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program (BTPDP) in the state budget, which will support addressing the shortage of educators in bilingual education programs, and includes support for educators starting from Transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Building on AB 1363 from previous years to identify DLLs with an asset-based approach in state preschool programs, AB 393 was signed this year to create a standardized process for state agencies to identify and support DLLs in general child care programs (CCTR) and migrant child care program (CMIG). The identification of DLLs will be used to inform policies and practices that support the child’s home language and English, and recognizes the rich language assets of children and families.

Advocates won a provision to allow qualified Medi-Cal providers participating in presumptive eligibility programs to report the births of any Medi-Cal eligible infant born in their facilities, including hospitals and birthing centers or other birthing settings, within 72 hours after birth through the Newborn Hospital Gateway (starting July 2024). This policy was adopted to ensure more timely and streamlined enrollment of infants deemed eligible for Medi-Cal, nearly half of all infants qualify.

The state budget includes up to $10 million for the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program for the purpose of providing medically necessary hearing aids and related services. 1,000 California babies born each year with hearing loss have coverage and access to hearing aids and services. Over 20,000 kids in California use hearing aids that are not covered by their private health insurance plan, creating access and affordability challenges for their families.


Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy

The Alliance’s lead grantees in California, Catalyst California and Children Now, 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

K-3 Education

Preschool and Pre-K


Child and
Maternal Health

Home Visiting

Infant & Child Health

Maternal Health

Early Intervention (Age 0-3)


Family Economic Security

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Early Childhood Infratructure

Dat Systems

Early Childhood Finance and Cost Modeling

Click 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: