girl at water table

Vannesa Carreto, 4, plays at the water table at the Creative Montessori Learning Center in East Palo Alto in March. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource Today

California earned a lackluster rating on state spending, preschool access and program quality for early childhood education for the 2011-12 school year, according to the annual State of Preschool Report released Monday by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Since early childhood education is not part of the K-12 system in most states, funding for and provision of the service varies widely. The annual report by the Rutgers University-based research organization is the only national study that gathers funding and policy data on early childhood education from each state and puts it into a comprehensive report that measures spending on a per-pupil basis.

“This is the thing we look to,” said Ernesto Saldaña of Early Edge California, an advocacy organization for early childhood education. “We get to compare with other states and see where we have to go.”

Among the 40 states that provide some form of state-funded preschool, California scored middling marks for both the public preschool access it provides and the amount it spends per enrolled child. Eighteen percent of 4-year-olds attend state-funded preschool programs in the state, and 9 percent of 3-year-olds do. By comparison, Florida sends 79.4 percent of its 4-year-olds to public preschool, the most of any state, but none of its 3-year-olds.

California spends an average of $4,136 per enrolled student. New Jersey, which pays preschool teachers in its public program on par with K-12 teachers, spends the most of any state at $11,659 per student.

Texas, the second most populous state after California, spends less per child, but sends more children to preschool.

California was also one of only five states in the report to meet fewer than half of the 10 quality standards laid out by the institute. (See the slideshow below for more detail.) Based on stated policies and self-reporting on the annual survey, California met four of the 10 standards.

The poor showing reinforces Saldaña’s view that California should be doing much more to provide free public preschool in the state. “We see this as an opportunity to go to state legislators and talk about the importance of restoring cuts,” he said.

More than $1 billion has been cut from preschool and child care funding in California in the last five years and there are about 110,000 fewer spots in state preschool now.

With the exception of a few stand-outs like New Jersey and Alaska, the national report found that the entire country has quite a way to go, said Steven Barnett, the lead researcher on the report. Though many states saw their funding cut drastically during the recession and are restoring some of that funding now, Barnett warned that it would be easy to see the planned increases as better than they actually are.

“It looks better if you just say, ‘How much did we dig ourselves out?’ than if you look at how deep the hole was to start,” Barnett said.

That mistake isn’t likely to be made in California, where the current state budget does not propose any increase to early childhood care or education, but holds funding flat.

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  1. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 3 years ago3 years ago

    Somebody needs to save us from ourselves and I think it may have been the defeated proposition of Molly Munger. I see here the brain-numbing response of Ms. Mongeau to the cavil about how or whether Transitional Kindergarten was used to cook the stats on Early Childhood Eduction in California. And Ruben's slam against the CA First 5 effort. And then navigio raises the question of Prop 38's dropped provisions for the education of young … Read More

    Somebody needs to save us from ourselves and I think it may have been the defeated proposition of Molly Munger. I see here the brain-numbing response of Ms. Mongeau to the cavil about how or whether Transitional Kindergarten was used to cook the stats on Early Childhood Eduction in California. And Ruben’s slam against the CA First 5 effort. And then navigio raises the question of Prop 38’s dropped provisions for the education of young children!

    All news to me, so I will have to look up Flopped5 and remind myself about Prop 38. I can only repeat what I have seen with my own eyes: the program offered in my community at one small ECE site is inadequate, low-level, and in no way will properly prepares its little kids for successful entry into present-day killer Kindergarten. This should be fixed.

  2. Ruben 3 years ago3 years ago

    Just don’t use the California First 5 programs as the model for anything national.

    Visit FLOPPED5, an independent and uncompensated watchdog site on the First 5 Commissions

    They have recently admitted that $300M was transferred from the program to illegally fund state programs. Also, 20 resignations for bad behavior should have you all going, what the?

    Be informed, Learn more, our kids deserve better than the FAIL that is First 5.

  3. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 3 years ago3 years ago

    I regularly read aloud as a literacy volunteer to children ages 3 to 5 years at one of San Diego Unified's Early Childhood Eduction programs. Parents whose children participate must show financial need and must be working or enrolled in school to qualify. Classes range in size from 20 to near-30 kids. During the CA budget crisis two years ago, my school was threatened with closure but survived, though at greatly-reduced hours. In my observation, … Read More

    I regularly read aloud as a literacy volunteer to children ages 3 to 5 years at one of San Diego Unified’s Early Childhood Eduction programs. Parents whose children participate must show financial need and must be working or enrolled in school to qualify. Classes range in size from 20 to near-30 kids.

    During the CA budget crisis two years ago, my school was threatened with closure but survived, though at greatly-reduced hours. In my observation, the quality of staff, instruction, program and physical environment improved during the budget crisis. I don’t know the reason for this: maybe everyone just buckled down to save their jobs in a recession.

    I believe that California-funded ECE deserves more money, but the money should be tied to regular close classroom scrutiny to assure delivery of high-quality care and instruction. Throwing money at early childhood education without implementing serious standards and site-based mentoring, supervision and instruction of teachers and aides is money wasted and a tremendous disservice to children and taxpayers alike.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Out of curiosity, what did you think of the ECE proposal that was in prop 38? Obviously the length of that initiative limited specificity to some extent, but a lot of framework seemed to be there. I found it dismaying that that aspect of prop 38 was almost completely ignored.

  4. Lillian Mongeau 3 years ago3 years ago

    Transitional kindergarten was not in effect for the 2011-2012 school year, as navigio points out. It is my best guess that this is why no mention was made of the program in the report. I don't know if it will be included in next year's report. It will be interesting to see. In the meantime, here's the definition of "State Preschool" that NIEER used to conduct this report: "NIEER’s State Preschool Yearbook series focuses on state-funded preschool … Read More

    Transitional kindergarten was not in effect for the 2011-2012 school year, as navigio points out. It is my best guess that this is why no mention was made of the program in the report.

    I don’t know if it will be included in next year’s report. It will be interesting to see. In the meantime, here’s the definition of “State Preschool” that NIEER used to conduct this report:

    “NIEER’s State Preschool Yearbook series focuses on state-funded preschool education initiatives meeting the following criteria:
    • The initiative is funded, controlled, and directed by the state.
    • The initiative serves children of preschool age, usually 3 and/or 4. Although initiatives in some states serve
    broader age ranges, programs that serve only infants and toddlers are excluded.
    • Early childhood education is the primary focus of the initiative. This does not exclude programs that offer parent education but does exclude programs that mainly focus on parent education. Programs that focus on parent work status or programs where child eligibility is tied to work status are also excluded.
    • The initiative offers a group learning experience to children at least two days per week.
    • State-funded preschool education initiatives must be distinct from the state’s system for subsidized child care.
    However, preschool initiatives may be coordinated and integrated with the subsidy system for child care.
    • The initiative is not primarily designed to serve children with disabilities, but services may be offered to
    children with disabilities.
    • State supplements to the federal Head Start program are considered to constitute de facto state preschool programs if they substantially expand the number of children served, and if the state assumes some administrative responsibility for the program. State supplements to fund quality improvements, extended days, or other program enhancements or to fund expanded enrollment only minimally are not considered equivalent to a state preschool program.
    While ideally this report would identify all preschool education funding streams at the federal, state, and local levels, there are a number of limitations on the data that make this extremely difficult to do. For example, preschool is only one of several types of education programs toward which local districts can target their Title I funds. Many states do not track how Title I funds are used at the local level and therefore do not know the extent to which they are spent on preschool education. Another challenge involves tracking total state spending for child care, using a variety of available sources, such as CCDF dollars, TANF funds, and any state funding above and beyond the required matches for federal funds. Although some of these child care funds may be used for high-quality, educational, center-based programs for 3- and 4-year-olds that closely resemble programs supported by state-funded preschool education initiatives, it is nearly impossible to determine what proportion of the child care funds are spent this way.”

  5. John mockler 3 years ago3 years ago

    Wow. Apparently these folk in New Jersey neglected to note that we added 80,000 4 year olds to transitional kindergarten which in any other state would be called pre school.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Or maybe put another way, forced 80,000 4 year olds out of kindergarten into ‘pre-school’ (TK).

      Anyway, it might be because the report looks at 11-12 data (during which TK was not yet implemented).

      But actually, it’s probably because they intentionally chose to exclude it regardless of the year (from the report):
      Students enrolled in Transitional Kindergarten are considered to be in the first year of a two-year kindergarten program rather than in pre-K.

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