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Paul Miller

Paul Miller

In January, California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg introduced the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014 (SB 837), legislation that would improve and expand high-quality transitional kindergarten (TK) for all 4-year-olds, regardless of income. As the executive director of Kidango, one of the largest early childhood education providers in California, I have seen first-hand the positive impact of early learning on a child’s future, and that is why I support SB 837.

Providing TK for all 4-year-olds will ensure that higher quality and effective preschool service will level the educational inequities California’s diverse children face. Through this bill, children will have access to a developmentally appropriate program based on current brain research. And to ensure accountability and appropriate standards, TK would be centered on the California Preschool Learning Foundations. The Preschool Learning Foundations outline key knowledge and skills that most preschool-aged children can achieve when provided with the kinds of interactions, instruction and environments that research has shown promote early learning and development – particularly through high-quality preschool programs.

Let me highlight one key provision in the bill: SB 837 encourages a mixed delivery system of school districts and private providers in order to give parents a choice among high-quality programs and ensure that the expertise, knowledge and passion from preschool providers are maximized to serve all 4-year-olds. Expanding access will require more preschools, not fewer, and creating strong, public-private partnerships with providers like Kidango and others throughout California is the only way this vision for the future will be successful.

Additionally, this bill would address some challenges we are dealing with in the early education system while significantly expanding access. The current early learning system in California is not sustainable for assuring a quality program. California’s part-day state preschool is collapsing because it receives less than half of what kindergarten receives in funding, and the costs are rising rapidly. Preschool teachers are paid less than half of what kindergarten teachers make, which is why teacher turnover is so high. This model is a race to the bottom, and will surely lead to the closure of more preschools. Under the bill, the preschool reimbursement rate will rise to two-thirds of the reimbursement level per pupil for kindergartners, now at $7,555. Finally, preschool teachers could receive a professional wage like their K-12 colleagues.

The research is there: Early experiences profoundly shape children’s potential to succeed in school and life. In those critical early years, young learners not only start honing their academic skills, they develop critically important learning skills such as paying attention, managing emotions and completing tasks. More than 100 studies in the U.S. alone show that quality preschool significantly benefits children’s school success. We also know that every dollar invested in high-quality early learning programs can save $7 in the form of fewer students being held back or getting involved in crime, and more graduating from high school and college and earning higher salaries.

But we’re falling short. The fact is, the achievement gap starts early, and many children, especially low-income students and English language learners, are often two years behind their upper-income peers by the time they enter kindergarten. For those children, the “start-behind, stay-behind” challenge is all too real. Many states such as New Jersey, Oklahoma, Michigan, Georgia and Illinois have invested in early education; but California has some catching up to do. Our students are not getting a strong start when it matters most. Currently, 52 percent of our 3rd graders test below proficient in English Language Arts and more than 30 percent are not proficient in mathematics. Research shows that those who aren’t reading proficiently in 3rd grade are four times more likely to not graduate from high school. We are now facing a fiscal and political opportunity to make good on our commitment to the education of California’s young children.

The fiscal landscape is improving after years of devastating cuts to child care and development programs. For the first time since 2008, the Legislative Analyst’s Office is projecting a surplus, with anticipated further improvement in the state’s economy. Politically, we haven’t seen the will to support early education in recent years – but that’s changing too. With the support of Assembly and Senate leaders, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, voters and children’s advocates, there is growing momentum for expanding and improving TK for 4-year-olds. With the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014, we have a path forward.

Despite my enthusiastic support for this bill, I recognize that even the best-intentioned legislation can have unintended consequences. That’s why there is time for input and revisions as the law moves through the Legislature, in which early learning experts will provide support and work with the author to make any necessary improvements to ensure the best for California children.

At its core, this bill is good for children. It takes the best from the current system and improves standards to ensure our children are getting the strong start they need and deserve. Now is the time to focus on ensuring all children are ready for kindergarten. Now is the time to support the Kindergarten Readiness Act. Our children cannot wait.

 • • •

Paul Miller is executive director of Kidango, a leader in early care and education. Kidango offers a wide variety of programs to meet the diverse needs of children 0-12 years of age and their families in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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  1. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    Agreed, we can’t let this develop the same problems of unaccountability our K-12 has.

  2. Beth 3 years ago3 years ago

    I worry about the definition of “high quality” preschool. I am very much against pushing academics down younger and younger and truly believe children this age should be focusing on social-emotional growth so that they are ready and eager to learn when the time is right for them. What criteria would be used to judge if a program is “high quality” or not?

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

      Beth, what do you think about this statistic, in Harper's Index form? 16% of white kids start kindergarten having had their parents teach them flash cards, basic math and basic reading. 60% of Asian American kids do, in California. 8.7% of white kids finish high school able to gain admission to a UC or equivalent private college. 33.5% of Asian American kids finish high school able to gain admission to a UC or equivalent private college. You see, just letting … Read More

      Beth, what do you think about this statistic, in Harper’s Index form?

      16% of white kids start kindergarten having had their parents teach them flash cards, basic math and basic reading.

      60% of Asian American kids do, in California.

      8.7% of white kids finish high school able to gain admission to a UC or equivalent private college.

      33.5% of Asian American kids finish high school able to gain admission to a UC or equivalent private college.

      You see, just letting kids play and hoping they have great genetics is not as good a childraising technique as making sure they have the knowledge and teaching them to overachieve, sacrifice for the honor of the family name, for their future, for the hard work of their parents, etc.

      It’s not like the extra social emotional growth somehow helps them catch up later. White kids lag behind Asian kids…for life, including personal happiness. Asians have lower crime rates, higher achievement when in poverty, lower suicide rates, higher achievement at every grade level including college and grad school, higher income and, as mentioned, higher personal happiness, and a higher birth rate. It’s not like this go slow approach ever catches up, that’s a myth, it’s just a euphemism for lowered expectations and lower achievement.

      You should really read ‘Triple Package’. You need impulse control. Flash cards teach that at a young age, parents teach away the natural instinct to look away, goof off, not focus when you are supposed to, and then when they start Kindergarten they are more social-emotionally able to avoid distractions and listen to the teacher.

  3. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Hi Paul,

    I have no reason to doubt your sincere interest in early education. I just thought the caveat was appropriate. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

  4. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    Yes, another year of schooling would help. However, we need to also make sure parents know that the average American kid spends more time watching TV than studying and reading combined. We also have to make sure that this isn't unionized so that bad teachers can't be fired and is run separate from the union. We need to make sure flash cards are used and kids really learn to read and do math, … Read More

    Yes, another year of schooling would help. However, we need to also make sure parents know that the average American kid spends more time watching TV than studying and reading combined. We also have to make sure that this isn’t unionized so that bad teachers can’t be fired and is run separate from the union. We need to make sure flash cards are used and kids really learn to read and do math, not just play around and goof off with a little supervision. The paradigm of encouraging a lack of impulse control and having fun mist be replaced by a paradigm of Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld’s new book, ‘The Triple Package’, which proves many immigrant groups thrive because parents treat B’s like Fs and A-s like Ds, an demand best effort from their children. We need to use this to teach parents and kids alike to study hard throughout childhood. If it’s just babysitting by union employees, it won’t close the achievement gap. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      So is your final answer ‘unionized TK would be worse than no TK’?

    • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

      There isn't more than a single fact in your comment except the amount of TV watching is probably in the ballpark. Asserting that you have the facts and that your opinion is indisputable is childish at best and destructive to any real discourse. The notion that certain groups thrive simple because they expects more is a gross simplification. Expectation is an important motivator and it works well in the context of some cultures that don't promote … Read More

      There isn’t more than a single fact in your comment except the amount of TV watching is probably in the ballpark.

      Asserting that you have the facts and that your opinion is indisputable is childish at best and destructive to any real discourse.

      The notion that certain groups thrive simple because they expects more is a gross simplification. Expectation is an important motivator and it works well in the context of some cultures that don’t promote individuality as much as conformity.

      • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

        correction: “simply b/c they expect more”

      • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

        Yet, those cultures have higher average incomes. You never read 'The Triple Package'. You just lost your temper at the KQED radio show and called Amy Chua names. If you read the book, you'd understand. She wants to help. Most with thriving kids just stay quiet, but she wants to extend the benefits of her wisdom to humanity. Your anger towards her is why most successful parents just shut … Read More

        Yet, those cultures have higher average incomes. You never read ‘The Triple Package’. You just lost your temper at the KQED radio show and called Amy Chua names. If you read the book, you’d understand. She wants to help. Most with thriving kids just stay quiet, but she wants to extend the benefits of her wisdom to humanity. Your anger towards her is why most successful parents just shut up while observing unsuccessful parents flounder in a sea of wasted time and lost opportunities. You have to read the book. She has all the facts, and they are amazing. I doubt you could dispute them, but if you don’t read it, we’ll never know.

    • Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

      Why not just fire all the preschool teachers before the new programs even begin? That would root out the lazies and the incompetents, and the ones who dare take a sick day now and then, to say nothing of those who take long, if unpaid, leaves for purposes such as maternity. This solution would do wonders for the budget, reducing salary costs to zero. Floyd, as a teacher who always worked very hard, I find your … Read More

      Why not just fire all the preschool teachers before the new programs even begin? That would root out the lazies and the incompetents, and the ones who dare take a sick day now and then, to say nothing of those who take long, if unpaid, leaves for purposes such as maternity. This solution would do wonders for the budget, reducing salary costs to zero.

      Floyd, as a teacher who always worked very hard, I find your continuing calls to fire teachers for no reason (other than that you say so) insulting in the extreme. In preschool, especially, there is a mix of public and private employment. Wages are extremely low, and preschool teachers who work for private outfits are not guaranteed to have employer-subsidized benefits, paid sick leave, pensions, or due process dismissal rights.

      If I’m grateful that K-12 public school teachers are willing to tolerate their economic lot, I have to be doubly grateful for preschool teachers. For skilled workers tasked with shaping the next generation, they are treated very poorly.

      • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

        Paul, most teachers are good, but if you fire 19 for performance in 10 years in a state with nearly 40 million people, you're doing something wrong. No profession is that good. It's just human nature that some people don't work as hard as others. The idea that the union spreads that makes it sound minor is "we just want due process". No Paul, this is dishonest. You want a … Read More

        Paul, most teachers are good, but if you fire 19 for performance in 10 years in a state with nearly 40 million people, you’re doing something wrong. No profession is that good. It’s just human nature that some people don’t work as hard as others. The idea that the union spreads that makes it sound minor is “we just want due process”. No Paul, this is dishonest. You want a system where 2 teachers are fired for performance each year and 9 including misconduct, in the entire state. You want a system whereby it costs over $100,000 to dismiss an ineffective teacher, including over $40,000 to Mark Berndt, the LAUSD molester now in prison for 25 years. This is real. My child didn’t have a teacher for 1st grade, a very important year, he had a series of subs. The principal and people from the district came to meetings in which 22 of 22 parents wanted her fired, or at least to take a year of leave so they could hire a permanent sub, and nothing could be done. Some of the parents went to private schools due to this, which causes less integration and more class and race segregation. Some just suffered. The system is broken.

        You don’t want a minor thing like to take a sick day when really sick. No one disputes this Paul. However, if 12% call in sick or say they need a personal leave day due to something they couldn’t schedule for another day on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, surely some are not just taking maternity leave or honestly sick, some are lying and/or taking a day off they could have avoided taking off, which shows bad character and morals.

        I’m not saying all, but some. If you’re really sick, sure, but you have to admit, in fact I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard this attitude among colleagues. If you only take a day off when you can’t reasonably avoid it (I don’t mean coming in while coughing up a storm, just reasonably), I admire your work ethic. But this isn’t a minor thing. See ‘Waiting for Superman’. It is a huge problem hurting many kids.

  5. Jack 3 years ago3 years ago

    Shouldn't we fix what is broken first? As is now our K to 12th grade classrooms are averaging 30 students per class and many important subject matters are not being offered to our students. The fact is that our graduating students are failing in the real world. The failure of our school system has nothing to do with early child care. The author of the bill fails to understand that a child … Read More

    Shouldn’t we fix what is broken first? As is now our K to 12th grade classrooms are averaging 30 students per class and many important subject matters are not being offered to our students. The fact is that our graduating students are failing in the real world. The failure of our school system has nothing to do with early child care. The author of the bill fails to understand that a child of age 4 has a very short attention span. Classroom setting is a nightmare for a four year old. Before supporting such a bill Mr. Miller, please try to remember what you liked to do when you were four? I for one enjoyed being a child and not a student. This bill is another way of sticking to the tax payers for the benefits of bureaucrats and the teachers unions. It is obvious that Mr. Steinberg has a big political agenda and is in the search for a venue that will make big waves with the public. Enough of this nonsense, invest in the existing K to 12 system with smaller classes, more subjects and better trained teachers.

  6. Paul Miller 3 years ago3 years ago

    Dear Don,
    My interest is what is best for children and families. I do not fear the impact that is less of an advantage to Kidango than the current system. As long as the benefit to children is the result of TK

  7. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Here we have the ED of Kidango, a leader in early care and education in SF Bay Area, promoting taxpayer-funded early education. I’m all for TK, but please…can we take the self-interest out of it or am I just being naïve?

  8. john mockler 3 years ago3 years ago

    What precisely does SB 837 do? What does it cost? How (in time and requirements) does it compare to the comprehensive pre school programs for which data suggests positive long range results occur? Does this funding come from reducing funding for LCFF passed a short 6 months ago or is it new funding? EdSource could be helpful in presenting such information

    Replies

    • Rhys Williams 3 years ago3 years ago

      Additional information available here: http://sd06.senate.ca.gov/tk-for-all

      This office is also happy to follow up with a phone call to address your questions, hopefully in a more effective manner than a comments board back-and-forth can facilitate.

      Rhys
      Office of the Senate President Pro Tem.

      • Lillian Mongeau 3 years ago3 years ago

        Hi John, We have done a few stories outlining the details of the proposal and will continue to cover it as the bill makes it's way through the legislative process. Here's the story we put out the day the bill was announced, explaining the basics of the proposal: http://bit.ly/1iXmwCn Here's a follow-up we ran after the Governor's State of the State address: http://bit.ly/NMpIGF Here's a good overview story of what the program looks like now and how teachers and … Read More

        Hi John,

        We have done a few stories outlining the details of the proposal and will continue to cover it as the bill makes it’s way through the legislative process.

        Here’s the story we put out the day the bill was announced, explaining the basics of the proposal: http://bit.ly/1iXmwCn

        Here’s a follow-up we ran after the Governor’s State of the State address: http://bit.ly/NMpIGF

        Here’s a good overview story of what the program looks like now and how teachers and communities have reacted to it: http://bit.ly/1dR3Fna

        Finally, here’s a link to our “transitional kindergarten” category, which lists all the stories we’ve done on the topic since we got started in 2012: http://bit.ly/1f2wLVg

        Hope that helps and stay tuned for more!

        ~Lillian

      • gregory uba 3 years ago3 years ago

        As someone with nearly 30 years of experience in a variety of early education settings – I currently can not support SB 837. A delivery system already exists that understands and has for decades implemented early education best practices. The teachers in the State-funded preschool system already utilize strategies that support accountability, including assessments of children, assessments of the learning environment, and feedback from parents and families that utilize the system. As always, with SB 837, the … Read More

        As someone with nearly 30 years of experience in a variety of early education settings – I currently can not support SB 837.
        A delivery system already exists that understands and has for decades implemented early education best practices. The teachers in the State-funded preschool system already utilize strategies that support accountability, including assessments of children, assessments of the learning environment, and feedback from parents and families that utilize the system.
        As always, with SB 837, the devil is in the details. How will supervision of school district personnel by private providers take place? How will programs account for the utilization of materials, equipment, and space in a mixed delivery setting? Who will foot the transportation expenses of getting children to and from their part day TK classroom to their “child care” program?
        After some eight years of neglect, the current system still manages to meet its funding terms and conditions… still manages to prepare children for Kindergarten… still manages to provide twice-yearly developmental assessments along 43 State-mandated measures to the thousands of children in its programs. This is due to the heroic efforts of underpaid and undervalued professionals, many, if not most, already possessing degrees in early education and related fields. Yet nothing in SB 837 promises to specifically address this currently neglected infrastructure.
        Investing in early education is vital. Research confirms this. But there is no research that indicates that learning outcomes for students who specifically experienced school district early learning experiences designed along the parameters of SB 837 (including TK) are superior to those that experienced early learning in other publicly funded (or for that matter private) settings. Why then would we suddenly invent a new system, one with no history, no well-identified system of oversight or review? Why would we divert resources from a tried and true model that is more than deserving of reinvestment?
        Let’s re-imagine SB 837 in a way that rebuilds what we already have, what children and families already know, what once made California’s early learning system the brightest in the nation.

    • Paul Miller 3 years ago3 years ago

      Dear John, Excellent questions. I am sure EdSource and others will be presenting more information. SB 837 improves the existing TK by increasing the qualifications for all staff including existing TK teachers who must take ECE classes. The funding as is all school District funding will come out of the existing base funding, LCFF, local and Federal funds. The amount is anticipated to increase due to Prop 30 and the additional tax revenue due to the improvement … Read More

      Dear John,
      Excellent questions. I am sure EdSource and others will be presenting more information.
      SB 837 improves the existing TK by increasing the qualifications for all staff including existing TK teachers who must take ECE classes. The funding as is all school District funding will come out of the existing base funding, LCFF, local and Federal funds. The amount is anticipated to increase due to Prop 30 and the additional tax revenue due to the improvement in the California Economy. The program, as is true of Quality Preschool, must be based on the research of outcomes and have both standards, measurements of outcomes and oversight.

      • gregory uba 3 years ago3 years ago

        Is it true that the initial TK efforts now "celebrating" six months have been implemented with credentialed teachers who are often lacking in early childhood education coursework? I surmise this by the wording that existing TK teachers must take ECE classes (as opposed to TK teachers must HAVE HAD ECE coursework. Given that - what cause have we to trust that the SB 837 plan won't likewise rely initially upon credentialed teachers lacking … Read More

        Is it true that the initial TK efforts now “celebrating” six months have been implemented with credentialed teachers who are often lacking in early childhood education coursework? I surmise this by the wording that existing TK teachers must take ECE classes (as opposed to TK teachers must HAVE HAD ECE coursework. Given that – what cause have we to trust that the SB 837 plan won’t likewise rely initially upon credentialed teachers lacking ECE backgrounds and coursework?

        Center-based Preschool teachers in California are ALREADY REQUIRED to have ECE coursework, whether they work in private or publicly funded programs. Teachers in funded programs abide by the Child Development Permit Matrix requirements that demand a minimum of 24 units of ECE or an AA degree or higher in ECE or Child Development. In addition, there is the requirement for these teachers to have 105 hours of professional growth over five years. As of September 2013, half of all Head Start teachers were required to hold a Bachelors Degree.

        I am not yet convinced that SB 837 will provide for more highly qualified teachers, at least during the initial years.

  9. Mike McMahon 3 years ago3 years ago

    Once again there is no question that from a policy point of view, early childhood education makes sense. However, unless there is additional funding for this new mandate, school districts which already severely unfunded will be forced to make tough choices.

    For those who will remember there was Prop 82 on the 2006 June ballot that called universal pre school supported by taxing the top 1%.
    http://www.mikemcmahon.info/preschool.htm

  10. Chris Reed 3 years ago3 years ago

    Contrary to what Paul Miller contends, early education programs have profoundly mixed results:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303990604577368271935279482

    If early education is going to be a big new focus, as many politicians now want, we need an honest debate that acknowledges many such programs have been “costly and ineffective,” as The Wall Street Journal reported in its news pages, not on its editorial page.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      not sure we should be taking the wsj’s advice on education policy (whether one can tell the difference between their ‘news’ pages and their editorial pages notwithstanding). regardless, their analysis is limited and flawed (imo). there was an extensive discussion on this issue a year or more ago on these pages i believe.

    • Paul Muench 3 years ago3 years ago

      Since I can’t access that article, I’ll assume this is the typical response that points out that academic gains of preschool are short lived. However those types of articles tend to leave out the benefit to long term life outcomes. And aren’t the life outcomes what we really value?

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