In his January budget draft, Governor Brown proposed consolidating three pre-kindergarten programs into one $1.6 billion block grant to the counties. Local education agencies would receive, and determine how to disperse, these block grant funds.
California’s state-funded preschool programs include varied funding streams, eligibility requirements, and curriculums. These programs consist of the California State Preschool Program ($880 million), a small block grant for quality rating and improvement systems ($50 million), and Transitional Kindergarten ($725 million).
Streamlining the current system is a reasonable objective; however, we believe that improving California’s early care and learning system is too important and too large an investment to be carried out in the budget planning process.
This week marks the thirty-fifth annual Week of the Young Child, an event organized by the National Association for Education of Young Children to raise awareness about the importance of quality early care and education for young children, families, and communities.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors delivered a resolution about the WOYC to county early care and education leaders today. This group included representatives from Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department, Community Services Bureau’s Head Start and Child Development Program, Contra Costa County Local Planning and Advisory Council for Early Care and Education, Contra Costa Child Care Council, The Contra Costa County Office of Education and First 5 Contra Costa.
Selecting the right early care and education setting for their family is one of the most challenging and important decisions parents face. What exactly does quality child care look like?
Using the Quality Matters rating criteria and framework, here are the top seven elements of quality to look for or ask child care providers about when selecting quality child care for your child:
- Teacher-Child Interactions: Providers that interact positively with the kids in their care.
- Ratio and Group Size: Small group sizes and a small number of kids to every adult.
- Learning Activities: A mix of creative, fun and educational activities that are right for a child’s age and help them learn new skills.
- Staff: Warm and knowledgeable staff who have a lot of training and rarely quit. Providers have taken classes or earned degrees in Early Childhood Education.
- Environment: A rich learning environment with varied materials, activities and routines. Areas are healthy, clean and safe.
- Program (or Curriculum): Providers use a curriculum to meet learning needs and may hold parent-teacher conferences.
- Child Health & Development: Providers make sure children receive health screenings and that children are developing on track.
Kids who attend quality early learning programs do better in life. That’s the message of a new campaign we’re co-sponsoring to educate parents about the importance of selecting quality child care for their children.
The campaign, called Quality Matters, also publicly launches Contra Costa County’s new system to rate and improve the level of quality licensed child care programs provide to young children. First 5 Contra Costa, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and the Contra Costa Child Care Council are sponsoring the campaign.
“The important message to families is that quality matters when they choose a child care setting for their child. Research shows that children in quality child care are more successful academically and in life,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Quality Matters is improving the quality of child care in our county and will provide parents with tools they need to identify quality programs.”
2015 marked the end of our $6 million grant from the Thomas J. Long Foundation to provide scholarships for low-income children to attend high-quality preschool. The program provided scholarships for 650 children and improved child care quality for another 5,000 kids.
Even more, our early work assessing participating PMD preschools paved the way for the important work we’re leading now: the creation of comprehensive child care Quality Rating & Improvement System (QRIS) in Contra Costa County.
Nelly Orantes, Director of Tiny Toes Family Child Care in Brentwood, says her coach Francisca Hernandez is one of the best things about being in our pilot child care Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), a system to rate, continuously improve, and communicate levels of child care quality. Francisca is part of a team of coaches who support the 104 child care programs participating.
“Francisca will always say, ‘Don’t worry if you cannot do it. We will do the best that we can – you don’t have to feel pressure.’ I think Francisca is a great, great support in this program. I couldn’t do it without her.”
Last month, headlines were abuzz with results from a new study on Tennessee’s state-subsidized preschool program for poor children: Tennessee study casts doubt on preschool, Increased access to preschool does not guarantee increased achievement, and Study shows preschool gains may not last.
In the study, researchers from Vanderbilt University found that children who attended the program, which serves 18,000 low-income children, initially started kindergarten ahead on many school readiness measures. But by the time the children were in first grade, they started to score lower on standardized tests than kids who hadn’t even attended preschool.
Did you know that preschoolers are expelled from school at three times the rate of older children?
Getting kicked out of preschool can hinder children’s social-emotional development, disrupt continuity of care for children and parents, and delay children getting the services they need.
One way to reduce expulsions, as profiled in a recent New York Times article, is to connect child care providers to mental health consultation services and expertise in child development. Fortunately for children and child care providers in Contra Costa County, these services exist – they’re free and they’re working.
First 5 is working to strengthen Contra Costa’s child care workforce by helping providers earn degrees in early childhood education. Last year, we supported 900 child care providers attending the county’s three community colleges by offering textbook loans, tutoring services, assistance for English Language Learners, and access to early childhood academic advisors. Read how this support helped one dedicated West County provider.
Iroda Mamasalieva came to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2008. She immediately began taking adult school classes to learn English and to support her family. One year later she entered Contra Costa College and began pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education.
“I would like to express my deep appreciation to the First 5 Program for its help and support on my career growth and development.
Today at the White House, President Obama announced $1 billion in public-private investments focused on young children. “Early education is one of the best investments we can make,” the President said during the day-long summit on early childhood funding.
The $1 billion investment includes:
- $250 million in federal preschool expansion grants awarded to 18 states.
- $500 million to expand Early Head Start and child care programs for children birth to age 3. Contra Costa County will receive $1.1 million.
- The launch of Invest in US, a new initiative coordinated by the First 5 Years Fund to provide a call to action for greater investment in early childhood.
- $330 million from corporations and foundations to enhance the quality of early education for thousands of children.