New effort to bring pre-K to all students

New effort to bring pre-K to all students

(Calif.) Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, has renewed his effort to bring high-quality pre-kindergarten services to early learners statewide.

Currently, the state provides free pre-K educational services to families earning up to $50,000 per year. That covers about 170,000 children, but McCarty estimated that there are another 40,000 low-income children who don’t have access to the same services.

His new bill, AB 1754, would be aimed at those still outside the program’s limits.

“We know that early childhood education is essential to a student’s academic success and the long term economic well-being of our state,” McCarty said in a statement. “Now is the time to show courage and make universal access to pre-k a reality for all of California’s students. The Golden State’s children and our economy deserve nothing less.”

In 2016, McCarty introduced legislation that called on the California Department of Education to come up with a plan by 2018 that ensures all low-income children receive at least one year of quality prekindergarten education.

That bill, AB 2660, failed in committee.

In 2015, McCarty got a bill on the governor’s desk that would have broadly expanded services to early learners, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the measure, saying the concept needed to be part of the budget process.

This might be the year that McCarty finally succeeds, given the robust economy and healthy status of state coffers.

Brown’s proposed budget unveiled last month would provide $78.3 billion in Proposition 98 spending—a new all-time high.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst has suggested that the administration’s revenue projections are likely to be low given that the December collections ran $4 billion ahead of estimates and $2.7 billion ahead in January.

Although there is a limit on how much schools will be receiving from the unexpected surge in tax money because of how the formulas of the funding guarantee work, there no doubt will be growing pressure on the governor this summer to fund new programs.

During the 2008-2012 fiscal crisis, funding for the early learning programs decreased by nearly $1 billion, according to the LAO. While many of those cuts have been restored, advocates for low-income families say there remains unmet needs.

Although some research has questioned the longevity of the benefits of participation in high quality preschool, other studies have found that children who participate for two years in such programs tend to have higher rates of graduation, college attendance and employment than their peers. They are also less likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system, and require academic remediation or special education services.

The new bill is being jointly sponsored with McCarty by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia D–Coachella.