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Preschool for All … Who Can Afford it

August 26, 2016
AccessEconomics and Finance
Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego

Next year, San Diego Unified will offer preschool to all families. All families who can afford it, that is. Earlier this week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined Superintendent Cindy Marten to announce a “game changing” initiative to that would expand access to preschool. Faulconer and the city didn’t actually help fund the preschool initiative, called Pre-K for All. 

District officials have long touted the quality of its preschool programs, but until now those seats were limited to families who meet strict income eligibility standards – which only covers the very poorest San Diegans. It’s ridiculously hard to qualify – and stay qualified – for free preschool. A family of four, where mom and dad work full-time but earn minimum wage, could actually make too much money to attend free preschool.

So this year the district will try something different. It will open up a certain number of spots to parents who make above the income cap but are willing to pay for a district-run preschool.

Costs range from $530 a month for a half-day program to $1,060 a month for full-day spots. Anyone who makes above the income cap will pay a flat fee for preschool, and pay extra if they can’t pick up their kids until 6 p.m. The annual registration fee is $150.

District officials say that’s cheaper than what parents would pay for private preschools in many San Diego neighborhoods. According to data from the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, the average cost of preschool in San Diego County was $9,952 a year, or about $830 a month, in 2014.