Children’s long-term well-being and the nation’s civic and economic future hinge on ensuring every child has access to high-quality early learning and development opportunities, a rigorous K-12 education set to high standards, and extended learning opportunities, such as expanded learning.
Due to chronic underfunding and inadequate governance, California’s once-premier education system now trails behind most of the nation. For more than 25 years, California has spent less per student than the national average. As a result, California’s children rank lowest on several key national measures of academic achievement. To make matters worse, California made painful and far-reaching budget cuts to its K-12 system in 2009, placing even more pressure on already underfunded schools, threatening the quality of children’s educational opportunities and undermining California’s chances for long-term economic growth.
Despite California’s dismal K-12 policy history, progress in other areas of the state’s education system deserves to be noted. The state has held the line and taken some positive steps in early learning and afterschool policy. For example, California is making progress in expanding access to and improving the quality of early learning and development programs. The state has also maintained its commitment to providing California’s children expanded educational opportunities through afterschool programs. In addition to state initiatives, the afterschool community continues to improve program quality.
This year boasts new federal funding opportunities to help California reinvest in the state’s educational system. Primary among them is the state’s unique chance to build on the federal government’s increased attention to improving children’s access to high-quality learning opportunities. California must remain competitive and leverage the opportunities provided by the proposed federal Early Learning Challenge grants, Race to the Top funds, Invest in What Works and Innovation funds, and Workforce Investment Act funds.
California’s future depends on increased investments in children’s education, requiring the state to prioritize comprehensive education finance and governance reform.