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Single state agency needed to coordinate California’s ‘patchwork’ of early childhood education programs, new report urges

February 23, 2018
Ashley Hopkinson
Ed Source

California will continue to lag behind other states in providing enough child care slots and diverse preschool options for all its nearly 2.5 million children under the age of 5 until it develops a more unified system that provides affordable care and makes it easier for families to enroll.

That is a key recommendation in a recent report published by the Learning Policy Institute. Researchers say California needs to have one state-level agency that will help coordinate the state’s often-confusing array of child care and preschool programs. The new agency should also examine factors that affect the quality of programs, such as low wages for preschool teachers and child care workers and a lack of ongoing professional development for those employees.

It also recommends that to ensure more coordination locally, the state “fully fund and grant decision-making authority to a single coordinating body at the county or regional level”.

The report, titled “Building an Early Learning System That Works, Next Steps for California,” examines both problem areas and promising practices in early childhood programs across 10 California counties that vary in population, child care cost and region, including large urban areas such as Los Angeles and small rural areas like Trinity County.

The report also made three other recommendations. It suggests that California make early childhood education affordable for all children from birth to age 5, build a well-qualified workforce and improve the quality of all preschool and child care programs. To meet these goals, the report suggests that the state establish universal preschool for all 4-year-olds, increase the number of full-day child care programs and ensure more on-the-job training and coaching for child care providers and preschool teachers.

While the report is not the first to challenge and analyze California’s approach to providing child care and preschool programs, it is the most thoughtful and comprehensive, said Erin Gabel, deputy director of external and governmental affairs for First 5 California. Gabel said the report focuses on making a complex and confusing system easier for families and legislators to use.

“The idea that we need