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Advocates Call California’s Budget A ‘Big Win’ For Early Childhood Education

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Thousands more California families would receive subsidized childcare and all-day preschool under the budget awaiting the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said the spending plan includes nearly $1 billion in new money for early education programs. He called it a “big win” for the state’s youngest learners.

McCarty said the plan expands subsidized childcare and preschool eligibility to more working and middle-class families.

“That’s a big issue,” he said. “There are families here in California, here in Sacramento, that maybe make a little bit too much to get the free preschool but they don’t make enough money to pay tuition, which is the same as UC Berkeley tuition, literally.”

Newsom is expected to sign the spending plan later this month. The budget pays for 10,000 more children to attend free, all-day preschool. It also pays for the families of 21,000 additional children to receive subsidized childcare.

Debora Stipek, an education professor at Stanford University, said more must be done to improve the quality of the state’s early education programs, including boosting pay for childcare providers and preschool teachers.

The budget sets aside $195 million to improve the quality of early learning programs, primarily through workforce professional development and education.

“This budget focuses primarily on access,” Stipek said. “It’s making both childcare and preschool affordable and accessible to more families than is currently true. It’s a down payment, I think.”  

Patricia Lozano is executive director of Early Edge, which advocates for early childhood education investments. She said early education programs have long-term benefits.

“If you don’t provide those first key years with education, then once they get to kindergarten, they’re already behind,” she said. “And it’s shown that it’s really difficult to catch up. Investing in them early will set them up for success.”

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