Liv Ames for EdSource Today

California state-funded preschools meet only four of the 10 quality preschool standards developed by the National Institute for Early Education Research, according to a report released Monday.

California was one of five states that met fewer than half of the standards developed by the national institute, based at Rutgers University’s School of Graduate Education. The annual report, The State of Preschool 2014, focuses on preschool funding, enrollment and quality for 40 states and the District of Columbia. Ten states do not fund preschool and were not included in the report.

California was credited for having comprehensive early learning standards, requiring at least 15 hours a year in teacher in-service training, mandating that teachers have specialized pre-K training, and requiring a staff-to-student ratio of one to 10 or less. But, according to the report, the state misses the mark by not requiring that:

  • Teachers have a bachelor’s degree;
  • Assistant teachers have at least six college credits in early childhood education or child development;
  • Class sizes be 20 students or smaller;
  • Children be screened for vision, hearing and health;
  • Part-time programs serve at least one meal a day;
  • Programs be monitored through regular site visits.

“This report absolutely highlights the critical need to increase the quality of our programs,” said Molly Tafoya, communications director for Early Edge California, an advocacy group based in Oakland.

Although California adopted a new system to rate early childhood centers, there are no requirements that the centers adopt practices to improve their ratings.

The state’s Quality Improvement and Rating System (QIRS) “is an incentive-based system rather than a change in licensing requirements,” said Erin Gabel, deputy director of First 5 California. “I’m happy to see the higher standards, but we never allocate adequate money to pay for them.”

From 2010-11 through 2013-14, California spent $3,714 per student for the part-day state preschool program, according to Carolyn Chu, a senior fiscal and policy analyst for the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Overall, funding by the states for preschool programs grew by $116 million, or 1 percent, from 2012-13 to 2013-14, according to the report. A total of 1.35 million children, primarily 4-year-olds, attended these programs in 2013-14, the report said.

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