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Newsom’s cradle-to-career plan for education is ambitious — and expensive

November 8, 2018
Karin Fischer

Newly elected governor Gavin Newsom’s big campaign promises on education could cost billions of dollars if fully realized.

The governor-elect has pledged to establish a cradle-to-career system of education in California and made it a central tenet of his education platform

To improve educational outcomes, the former San Francisco mayor argues that the state needs to begin offering services in early childhood with interventions continuing throughout school and college..

The Newsom campaign did not release cost projections for any of its proposed education policies during the campaign against Republican John Cox. But through an examination of previous legislative proposals, expert and advocacy group assessments and a review of comparable programs in other states, EdSource was able to provide a rough calculation of how much Newsom’s strategy could cost.

Universal preschool for 4-year-olds, one Newsom pledge, could cost more than $2 billion to implement. Another plank in his educational platform, guaranteeing California students two free years of community college, could be another $92 million a year.

While there is much that is uncertain and speculative — in many cases, Newsom has put forward broad goals rather than specific policy prescriptions — this is the first real picture of what an investment in education could look like under the Newsom administration.

Of all the governor-elect’s pledges, perhaps the biggest-ticket item is his call for universal preschool. A measure put forward in the last legislative session to expand what is known as “transitional kindergarten” to all 4-year-olds would cost in the “low billions” when fully implemented, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Depending on the number of participating students, the LAO put the cost of universal preschool between $1.97 billion and $2.35 billion annually. The cost of providing an additional high-quality year of schooling could be about $9,800 per student, children’s advocates say.

“It’s not inexpensive,” said Avo Makdessian, who leads the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Choose Children campaign, an effort to bring attention to early childhood issues. “But all the research shows it pays dividends.”