Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento introduced three pieces of legislation on Tuesday aiming to provide free preschool to about 100,000 more children from low and middle-income households in California.
The first bill — ironically named AB123 — will cost $1.4 billion a year in addition to the existing $1.2 billion dollars already in place for preschool programs. He said current funds for state preschool are being spent wisely and he plans to build on current models.
“It's making a difference,” McCarty said. “Those kids are entering kindergarten ready to succeed. So we don't want to reinvent the wheel.”
Stanford Professor Deborah Stipek has investigated the state of early childhood education in California and said the bill is a very good start for achieving quality pre-K. But she said that unlike other states, California doesn't collect enough information on schools to really say if current funds are being spent wisely.
“Until we have better data it's hard to be confident that we're getting what we're paying for,” Stipek said.
McCarty's second bill, AB124, provides funding to build new preschool classrooms and facilities, while the third would increase reimbursement rates for preschools.
Stipek said that bill , AB125, will ultimately benefit teachers.
“People don't stay in the profession for very long on average,” Stipek said, “which means that children for the most part have relatively inexperienced teachers.” She says the bill will create a more stable and more experienced teacher pool.