Days after the news that federal Head Start programs in California will be serving thousands fewer children this year, the California Department of Education announced that state preschool programs will be serving thousands more children this school year.
The final state budget included an additional $30 million for state preschool programs and $25 for other child care programs that went toward restoring the $1 billion in lost funding since 2008. More than 100,000 children have been cut from the state’s preschool and child care rolls in that time, according to the Legislative Analysts’ Office. Now, part of that money has been disbursed and will result in 8,300, or 8 percent, of the spots opening up again.
This is the first increase in child care spots the state has seen in years, but it will not be enough to serve all the eligible children. Both Head Start and state preschool programs report long waiting lists for their services.
Head Start has said it will lose 5,600 slots in California because of the federal budget cuts called sequester; it is unclear how the additional state slots might offset that loss in individual communities. The state and federal programs also vary in scope: Head Start Programs offer a range of education and health services for children up to age 5 whose families live below that poverty line. In contrast, state preschool is typically a half-day academic program for 4- and 5-year-olds whose families live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. There has been some debate about which program is more effective, though the programs themselves often work closely together. Many child care centers offer both state and Head Start services at the same location.
Lillian Mongeau covers early childhood education. Contact her or follow her @lrmongeau.