PreschoolLast month, the California Department of Education announced that Contra Costa County will receive an annual $1.4 million block grant to improve preschool quality for low-income children.

The block grant was included in California’s 2014-15 State Budget and provides $50 million in ongoing grants to support quality improvements in California preschools. The goal is to increase the number of low-income children attending high-quality preschools, which research shows prepares children for success in school and life.

The CDE block grant builds upon the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) – a uniform system to rate, improve, and communicate levels of child care quality – being piloted in 16 California counties, including Contra Costa. Locally, 101 child care programs are participating in the QRIS pilot.

Per the block grant, funds must be used to support California State Preschool Program (CSPP) sites, which are preschool programs that receive state subsidies to serve low-income children. There are 58 CSPP sites in Contra Costa County, primarily run by nonprofit child care centers and school districts. More than half of the CSPP programs in Contra Costa already participate in the QRIS rating system.

Funds from the block grant will be used to recognize CSPP providers who score high QRIS ratings and to help programs with lower scores to raise quality. The incentives are designed to improve and maintain quality by keeping teacher-child ratios low, paying for qualified staff, and supporting strong teacher-child interactions.

Contra Costa’s $1.4 million grant will support:

  • Stipends between $2,500 to $5,000 to all CSPP sites participating in the QRIS
  • Site quality improvement mini-grants for sites seeking help reaching top ratings
  • Quality grants to CSPP providers who successfully score in the top two ratings
  • Training and support for CSPP sites not currently participating in QRIS
  • A public awareness campaign about the nature and importance of quality preschool
  • Monitoring and rating of new QRIS participants

The Contra Costa County Office of Education will oversee the block grant funding in partnership with First 5 Contra Costa. Other partners working on these quality improvement efforts include the Community Services Bureau, the county’s three community colleges, West Contra Costa Unified School District, and the Contra Costa Child Care Council.

For additional information about the block grant and/or QRIS program, contact:

  • Edirle Menezes, First 5 Early Childhood Program Officer, (925) 771-7333
  • Ruth Fernandez, CCCOE, (925) 942-3413.