A Key Step for California’s Youngest Learners

Posted on 13 November 2009

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By Catherine Atkin
Preschool California

Earlier this week, early learning advocates were excited to see Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger take a critical step forward for California’s youngest learners by signing an executive order to create the California State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care.

Establishing the council is critical because it positions California to receive millions in federal funds for early education programs.

The new council will ensure efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in California’s early childhood education system. It will lead efforts to develop a high-quality, comprehensive system and strengthen state-level coordination and collaboration among California’s early learning and child care programs.

Now, more than ever, our state’s current budget crisis demands a thoughtful and collaborative effort to optimize new and existing investments that are so critical for our earliest learners. The council will also make recommendations on developing a comprehensive early childhood data system; increasing access to early childhood education, especially for the children who need it most; and developing or enhancing systems that improve children’s school readiness.

By creating the council, California becomes eligible for several different pools of federal money, including $100 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for states that develop and implement plans established by their early childhood councils. About $10.7 million of the $100 million is allotted for California. 

Additionally, if the Early Learning Challenge Fund is created, only states with such councils can apply for the Early Learning Challenge Fund.  The House version of the Early Learning Challenge Fund bill included a proposal to provide $8 billion over eight years.

The new council,  co-chaired by the State Superintendent for Public Instruction,  the Secretary of Education and the chairperson of the California Children and Families Commission, will build on the work that is already being done by the Early Learning Quality Improvement System Advisory Committee established last year by SB 1629 (Steinberg). 

The committee is currently working to develop an early learning quality rating system and a funding model that provides an incentive to improve quality. 

These developments reflect a statewide momentum we see in efforts to expand and improve our early learning system.  Next week, for example, Fresno residents will participate in the first of a series of  town hall meetings  to engage and gather input from local communities on the Early Learning Quality Improvement System Advisory Committee’s forthcoming interim report, to be released next month.

All of this work is part of an effort to build an efficient, effective early childhood education system that can support our children and our state for years to come.  In these challenging economic times, we should heed economic analyses, which show a $7 to $16 return on every dollar we invest in high- quality early learning.   

By creating the California State Advisory on Early Childhood Education and Care, the state of California took an important step toward becoming eligible for critical new funding, and developing the type of early childhood education system that our state needs and our children deserve. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Preschool California is a nonprofit advocacy organization working to increase access to high-quality preschool for all of California’s children, starting with those who need it most. It brings together K-12 educators, business leaders, parents, labor, law enforcement, early care and education providers, faith-based institutions, community leaders and others to achieve this goal.