Despite initial resistance from Gov. Jerry Brown, the final budget deal struck by lawmakers on Tuesday provides more than $300 million for early education.
“This budget is good news for our infants, toddlers and preschoolers,” said Deborah Kong, president of the Oakland-based advocacy group Early Edge California, in a prepared statement. “It builds on the progress made last year and continues the strong momentum for high-quality early learning in California.”
The package included the following:
- An additional 9,500 preschool slots. This includes 7,000 full-day slots plus 2,500 part-day slots with priority given to children with exceptional needs. Advocates say there are currently about 31,500 4-year-olds from low-income families that do not have access to state-subsidized preschool.
- Reimbursement rates for state-funded preschool providers will increase by 7 percent for the three hours of the program that focus on academics. The reimbursement rate for any additional hours will increase by 6 percent. For an explanation of how these programs have been funded, see this report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
- An additional 6,800 vouchers that will allow low-income parents to enroll their children in daycare programs with licensed providers. The state disbanded its waiting list for vouchers in June 2011. At that time, 200,000 eligible families were on the list.
- A 4.5 percent increase in reimbursement rates for the voucher program.
- A 5 percent increase in reimbursement rates to non-licensed daycare providers, such as relatives and friends. The state pays these providers less than licensed providers.
- $24 million in one-time grants to improve the quality of infant and toddler care. The state has allocated $50 million in ongoing funds to local consortia to improve quality and develop a ranking system for preschools. The consortia can use the one-time funds to provide technical assistance and other support to improve the quality of daycare programs for infants and toddlers in their area.
- $30 million in increases for the Early Education Program for Infants and Toddlers with Exceptional Needs.
The budget deal also places funding for the full-day preschool programs under Proposition 98, which finances
K-14 education, making it possible for providers of these programs to get their funding under one contract.
Ted Lempert, president of the advocacy group Children Now, said the new streamlined contract will provide administrative cost savings for preschool providers as well as for the state.