For immediate release: April 18, 2016
The Opportunity Institute
Early Edge California
510.271.0075 ext. 303
Potential Shown in California’s Investment to Improve Quality of Preschool
As Legislature considers Governor Brown’s budget proposal that could compromise quality improvement funding, new report analyzes quality efforts underway in the state
(Oakland, CA)—A new report by The Opportunity Institute shows that the State Preschool Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Block Grant has significant potential to drive improvement and support quality in early learning programs for California children. Through this annual and ongoing program, $50 million in state funds have been awarded in grants to counties to build their local QRIS through California State Preschool Programs (CSPP). The report concludes that the Governor and Legislature should maintain the program rather than collapse it into an Early Learning Block Grant, as the Governor has proposed for the 2016-17 budget cycle. The report also calls on the Legislature to formalize through statutory language its support of high-quality interactions in early childhood programs for California’s children.
The report analyzes county applications for funding from the first year of the Block Grant (2014-15). It finds that counties proposed to improve the quality of preschool programs through meaningful, targeted investments in local infrastructure, including increasing the enrollment of early learning programs into the state’s quality system, and serving more than 59,000 children in the highest quality programs by 2018. Despite a commitment from the Legislature for continued funding, Governor Brown has proposed to eliminate the QRIS Block Grant and fold those funds into a broader block grant to be spent on early learning at local discretion.
Early childhood advocates across the state oppose this approach, and instead recommend that any changes to this funding be discussed in the regular legislative session rather than the budget process. Some have proposed that the 2016-17 state budget include an annual investment of $75 million for the State Preschool QRIS Block Grant and an additional $35 million in ongoing funding for an Infant and Toddler QRIS Block Grant.
“The Preschool Block Grant is an important piece of the puzzle as the state works to build a stronger and more equitable system of high-quality early learning for vulnerable children,” said Sarah Crow, Senior Vice President at The Opportunity Institute and the report’s lead author. "Counties are eager to use these funds to lift quality across early childhood programs."
“Quality is the key to ensuring children see the lasting benefits of early education,” said Deborah Kong, president of Early Edge California, which supported the report. “First 5s have led the way with QRIS, and Governor Brown and the Legislature were smart to provide this critical funding for quality improvement. We should build upon funding for these promising on-the-ground efforts by First 5s and County Offices of Education to scale up quality early learning programs so more young children can get the high-quality preschool they deserve.”
In line with the report’s recommendations to codify essential elements of high-quality interactions in early childhood settings, legislation recently introduced by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) AB 2660 requires the California Department of Education to develop a plan for a coherent prekindergarten system that would provide at least one year of high-quality prekindergarten to children who would benefit most. AB 2660 has a strong focus on improving elements of preschool quality, such as a well-implemented quality improvement system that builds upon the state’s existing infrastructure, to support teachers and the best outcomes for children. AB 2660 will be heard by the Assembly Education Committee on April 20.
For more information, view the report, “New Kids on the Block: Findings from the First Year of California's State Preschool QRIS Block Grant”
The Opportunity Institute is a non-profit organization that promotes social mobility and equity by improving outcomes from early childhood through early career. We focus on education and the related social policies that make true educational opportunity possible. For more information, please visit theopportunityinstitute.org.
Early Edge California works to ensure all children have the early experiences necessary to be successful learners by the end of 3rd grade, setting them on a path to college and career readiness. For more information, visit www.earlyedgecalifornia.org