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Children Now Asks: How Well is California Supporting its Children?

Mar 17, 2022    |   California ECE News Updates

Children Now recently released its 2022 California Children’s Report Card, a comprehensive report on children’s health, education, and well-being in our state. The Report Card grades the state on its ability to support better outcomes for kids, from prenatal to age 26, across 32 key children’s issues. 

We’ve summarized below the Report Card’s findings on the issues tracked that are directly related to early childhood care and learning: Child Care; Preschool & Transitional Kindergarten; Early Care and Education Workforce; Early Intervention & Special Education.  While good progress has been made in some areas, there is a great deal of work to be done to address critical gaps. You can find more detail on these ECE categories beginning on page 24 of the report.

Child Care. Progress Report Grade: D+

The report notes that there is insufficient and unequal access to care, and that this gap has been made worse by the pandemic. Federal pandemic funding and state investment provided temporary relief for families and providers, but post-pandemic it is more important than ever that California invest significant, sustained resources in child care. 

The report’s Child Care policy and investment recommendations include: 

  • Triple the number of infants and toddlers that receive state-funded child care in the near term and increase from there.

  • Invest in living wages for providers, workforce development, and child care facilities expansion.

(Note:  In this report, child care refers to care provided outside of the TK-12 setting.)

Preschool & Transitional Kindergarten. Progress Report Grade: A-

By the 2025-26 school year, 4-year-olds in California will have access to a new universal Transitional Kindergarten (TK) grade in public schools.  If the TK programs are effectively implemented and developmentally appropriate for 4-year-olds, TK will provide a critical step toward long-term educational success. There is also a significant need to preserve families’ choices across the mixed-delivery system and to offer full-day wraparound care for children in TK.

The report’s Preschool & TK policy and investment recommendations include: 

  • Invest to ensure that the TK curriculum is developmentally appropriate, with qualified teachers and lower (ideally 8:1) staff to child ratios.

  • Expand access to the California State Preschool Program for children currently eligible for services based on need, and ultimately commit to provide universal preschool for all 3-year-olds.

  • Ensure that wrap-around care is available to allow for parents’ varying work hours.

  • Leverage federal early learning investments, including better state coordination with Head Start and Early Head Start.

Early Care and Education Workforce. Progress Report Grade: C

The pandemic has significantly exacerbated the impact of low wages and has increased pressures on the child care workforce. California has made some investments in the ECE workforce, including support for educators employed in childcare, and temporary, long-overdue temporary increases to reimbursement rates within the child care subsidy system. Yet, rate increases must be permanent and ongoing, and must be tied to the actual cost of providing high-quality services. Another unmet need is a clear pathway, including financing, for child care educators to further their education, develop their skills, and advance to higher-paid positions.

The report’s ECE Workforce policy and investment recommendations include: 

  • Continue to increase child care provider rates and build systems of professional development and support for the child care workforce.

  • Invest in strategies to ensure pay parity between educators in child care and TK with equivalent education and training.

  • Implement a state-wide ECE workforce registry to better understand the composition and needs of the workforce.

Early Intervention & Special Education. Progress Report Grade: D+

The State has made some recent investments to help with early identification and support, including funding developmental screenings, inclusive learning spaces, and services for 3- and 4-year olds receiving special education support in schools.  In addition, the State budget provided learning recovery grants for students with special needs, funding for dispute resolution for families and school districts attempting to reconcile IEP disagreements, and increased base funding for special education. These investments are steps in the right direction, but do not make up for the years of funding not keeping up with children’s needs.

The report’s Early Intervention & Special Education policy and investment recommendations include: 

  • Ensure universal developmental screening.

  • Significantly expand and improve quality intervention services.

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