headshot of Ted Lempert

Early Education in California – Bay Area Forum

headshot of Ted Lempert - credit Los Altos Rotary
Ted Lempert

Bay Area State legislators participated in an open dialogue about pending state legislation focused on early education in California, as well as the January budget proposal and its impact on early care and education programs.

On Feb. 21, from 9:15 am till noon, the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s (SCCOE) Early Education Local Planning Council (LPC) co-hosted a legislative forum as part of the Eight-County Early Care and Education Coalition.

Key Take-Aways

The forum demonstrated the increased interest and support for funding early education (Birth to Kindergarten) programs for low income families.   More legislators participated in this year’s event that was filled to capacity.   Both the State Senate and State Assembly are working on bills proposing ways to expand access to quality child care and pre-school.

Ted Lempert’s key message was that California and Governor Brown needs to prioritize early education in California NOW.   Our children can’t wait.   No further research on long term benefits or best practices is needed.  A sufficient number of pilot programs and longitudinal studies have shown the benefits of increased resilience, attendance, third grade reading levels etc.

Many comments on the need to better integrate early education with health and human services.   Low income families need education on early education, as well as how to secure health/developmental screenings and services for children.

While the State Senate has proposed the SB 837 “Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014”, and the SB 1123 “Strong Start” Child Care bill, these bills are still under review and revision as they become more refined. 

Some of the areas receiving most attention in the SB837 is how districts may be the provider or the contractor of preschool for 4-year olds.    Would the preschool staff need to meet school district staff requirements, or what requirements do the contracted staff need to meet.  How to locate, secure and provide appropriate facilities needed for expanded programs for 4-year olds. 


Keynote Speaker –
Ted Lempert, President of Children Now

Legislative panelists

  • State Senator Jim Beall, Democrat,  16th District
  • Assembly Member Joan Buchanon, Democrat,  16th District
  • Assembly Member Paul Fong, , Democrat, 28th District
  • Assembly Member Rich Gordon, Democrat
  • State Senator Jerry Hill, Democrat, 13th District
  • State Senator Mark Leno, Democrat, 11th District
  • Assembly Member Kevin Muller, Democrat, 22nd District
  • Assembly Member Mark Stone, Democrat, 29th District

Moderator:  Angie Garling, Child Care Planning Council Coordinator for Alameda County

Ted Lempert’s Remarks

Ted started his comments stating he is not worried about the “fade-out” effects of preschool.    No more research on early education’s potential or proven benefits is needed.    He cited a RAND Study with the Packard Foundation.    He also noted that families with financial resources invariably ensure that their children attend quality preschools.   The issue is that low income parents are not able to afford quality infant care and preschool.   A minimum wage earner would expend 71% of their income for infant care.    This creates a huge inequity for our children.  At the same time, kids from low income families have a greater need for quality early education programs.   These programs include home visits, parent education, and quality programs delivered from qualified staff.

Early education is on the state’s legislature agenda, although it may not be passed in 2014.  In Governor Brown’s 2014-2015 Budget Proposal, presented January 16th, 2014, education funding is $1B lower than 2007-2008.   When taking normal inflation into account, the 2014-2015budget represents a 40% cut to education over 2007-2008.    Governor Brown is proposing a CalWorks pilot program that would provide quality childcare for infants and toddlers and home visits.

The State Senate has proposed SB 837 “Kindergarten Readiness Act” to expand transitional kindergarten to all four-year-olds over 4 years.    Senator Carol Liu has introduced SB 1123, the California Strong Start program bill, which will establish a comprehensive, evidence-based, locally controlled program for children birth through age 3.   The SB837 bill is still being drafted.  The SB837 proposal allows school districts to contract out preschool services.    Many questions remain as to the contract service providers, such as the requirements of their staff.   Current school districts do not have sufficient facilities, especially those appropriate for four-year-olds.

Ted stated that we need better integration of our 0-5 early education and K-12 education delivery systems.

Ted’s Call to Action   

In the midst of state proposals for early education, several counties and communities have started initiatives to expand early education.  Examples include San Mateo County’s The Big Lift and Santa Clara County’s Strong Start and EduCare.   We should support these local initiatives and voice support for the state proposed bills to expand early education.   We will need all of these programs.  Message to service providers:  don’t rathole in trying to differentiate programs.

We need to tell our legislative members to prioritize early education.   850 organizations have voiced support for state legislation.   Need 10,000 organizations to show support for legislation.
These early education bills need to be supported, NOW.    Our young children need early education now.


Introductory Comments by State Legislators


headshot Jim BeallState Senator Jim Beall, Democrat, 16th District     

Early education needs to be a state priority.   Also need to better link health care and education.  Currently assessments are not coordinated.   Cross systems approach is necessary.  Need to keep families together, even when there is a problem child.  We need to look comprehensively for young children.   And the Time is Now.



headshot Joan BuchananAssembly Member Joan Buchanon, Democrat,  16th District   

Joan’s view on top three priorities for California’s education system:

  • Stop blaming the teachers.  Blame the leaders.
  • Invest heavily in staff and teacher professional development.
  • Invest in our children birth to age 5.   Both childcare and preschool.   Invest the way Finland does.   California’s funding per pupil is $3500 lower the national average.  We will need more taxes to fund education.     There are concerns that if California’s economy does not continue to improve, LCFF funding won’t reach its funding targets in 2020.


headshot Paul FongAssembly Member Paul Fong, Democrat, 28th District  

Paul has been active on California’s Higher Education Committee.  He views that early education is key to increasing college attendance, reducing crime and building a larger/stronger middle class.  Paul has worked on multiple bills to increase low income student access to community college and higher education.   Specifically, Mr. Fong promotes increasing Cal Grants via AB 1285to help more low income students attend and complete college.


headshot Rich GordonAssembly Member Rich Gordon, Democrat, 24th District

Rich has much experience supporting early education initiatives and programs.  He served on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and Chaired the First 5 Commission.  During that time Redwood City ran a pilot preschool program where the students were tracked into elementary school.   They saw gains in third grade reading scores.   Moving forward, Rich would like to see better linkage between child care and preschool providers and the K-12 system.   He notes that further work is needed on early education provider staff development, and to secure additional facilities appropriate for preschool and child care.


headshot Jerry HillState Senator Jerry Hill, Democrat, 13th District

Jerry supports early education and also notes that we do not need to wait for more research studies and pilots.   He noted that his district includes 29 school districts, which 21 are Basic Aid (community funded, rather than solely state funded.)   Basic Aid districts do not receive the incremental funding allotted in the Local Control Funding Formula.   Thus these districts will not have additional funds for early education programs.


headshot Mark LenoState Senator Mark Leno, Democrat, 11th District   

Mark noted that much of the achievement gap is established by kindergarten.  Families with financial means pay for their children to receive quality child care and preschool.   Only one-third of eligible low income children have access to                   quality pre-school.   Mark pointed out the challenges the State budget faces due to its current structure and revenue sources.   In 2007-2008 when the economy was doing well, the state budget was $103B.   Based on inflation/cost of living adjustments, to be at that level in 2012-2013 would increase to $125B.  Instead, the 2012 budget was $94B.   Without Prop 30’s $6B, the budget would have been $88B, which means that it would have been only at two-thirds the level of the 2007-2008 budget.   California’s per pupil spending is about $8000/student ($7000/student without Prop 30), which is half of the other high cost of living states (eg New Jersey and New York at $15,000/student) and well below the national average.  At a minimum, we need to ensure the continuation of Proposition 30.


headshot Kevin MullinAssembly Member Kevin Muller, Democrat, 22nd District  

Kevin would like to see stronger links between economic and business councils.   Together they could improve under-utilized child care facilities.    He suggests moving the capital improvement loan payback period to 14 rather than 10 years so that facility operators could expand services.   He promotes building more bipartisan relationships to address business and economic development issues.  He agrees with Ted Lempert’s call to action that we need to act NOW to expand access to quality early education.


headshot Mark StoneAssembly Member Mark Stone, Democrat, 29th District  

Mark supports legislation that focuses on early education for children birth to age 5.  He views it key to reducing poverty, prison population, and the achievement gap.  It reduces the number of children on the welfare system as parents can take jobs, and expand their hours of employment.    The challenge is trying to carve up the existing education budget; instead we need to review the full budget allocation mix.  Some are looking at ways the Department of Family Services (DFS) can help fund childcare.    Mark advocates for online community service review sites like Yelp that can help families locate better residential care facilities, child care and preschool.   He notes that many infrastructure issues could be addressed with “one-time” funds and fees, rather than asking for commitment to long-time funding.


Comments from the Q&A Session

 SB 837 “Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014”

  • SB 837 is still a work in process, but it has brought together all the stakeholders to further refine the provisions and language in the bill.
  • SB 837 asks for funding of $990M over 5 years; but the true cost to meet its goals may be three times as much.
  • Concerns were raised over SB 837’s provision that districts may contract out preschool services, leading to questions of monitoring the quality of the contracted facilities, and qualifications/training of the staff.
  • The Proposition 98 rules are to divide state revenues by the number of students in the system.   If more students (eg 4-year-olds) are added to Prop 98 pot, then the per pupil spending is decreased for all students.   At this point, there is no funding for services to monitor and rate the providers.
  • The transition of a child’s care/education needs to be seamless as he/she transitions from child care to preschool to elementary school.

California’s State Budget, Revenue Sources

  • California draws most of its revenue from personal income tax (65.8%) and sales tax (22.7%).
  • Before Vehicle License Fees were reduced during Schwartzenberger’s term as Governor, 2% of the fees went directly to early education.   The fees were reduced an average of $200 / year which represents over $50B over 5 years… 2% of $50B is the $1B that SB 837 asks for funding.
  • The 2009-2012 State Budget cuts were made “on the backs of women and children.”
  • Department of Corrections budget.   Ten years ago the Department of Corrections budget represented 5.3% of the state budget – the highest rate in the nation.    The Department of Corrections now represents 11% of the budget.  The cost per inmate has increased from $28K to $60K per year, and in some cases up to $300K/year.  California’s prison return rate (recidivism) is 70%.    Clearly, we need new programs to reduce recidivism and improve rehabilitation and drug/mental health counseling.  We need reform to reduce sentencing terms and incarceration rates.   If we reduced the Department of Corrections budget by 10%, we could pay for quality early education for low income families and reduce welfare, prison costs, while improving state tax rolls.
  • Corporate taxes contribute only 8.2% of the 2014-2015 general fund revenues.
  • Two-thirds majority is needed to pass measures to increase taxes, including parcel taxes.  Bonds require 55% of the vote within a regular election.

CalWORKS Parent-Child Engagement Pilot Project

CalWORKS proposes to pilot a program for up 2000 families in six counties over three years to improve parent-child engagement – begin March 2015 and extend through December 2017.   The intent is to encourage early interventions for families and children who are experiencing multiple barriers to achieving self-sufficiency.  These interventions include case management, job readiness training, home visiting, parenting skills education, and should ensure that children receive stable high-quality child care services that will provide an educational preparatory platform for their future.   The demonstration pilot would cost $10 million in 2014-2015 and $115 million over three years.


These notes are from Julie Cates who attended the Forum.  They reflect her memory of the comments made at the Forum.    They have not been reviewed for accuracy by any of the Speakers at the Forum.  Comments and corrections are welcome – send to [email protected]