California spends 12X as much on prisoners as it does preschoolers.
Quality preschool is important for all kids, but unlike kindergarten, preschool isn’t universal in California. Attendance is especially critical for low-income children, who can arrive at elementary school nearly 14 months behind more affluent kids in school-readiness measures.
Access: Many families struggle to find affordable, quality preschools. Public preschools provide access for a large number of low-income children, but only 19% of all three-year olds (95,751) and 32% of all four-year-olds (161,264) are enrolled in a public preschool program. In contrast, 90% of all five-year-olds (511,985) are enrolled in public kindergarten.
Affordability: Cost is a significant barrier. A parent working full-time would spend almost half of a minimum wage salary on preschool. Many preschools struggle to keep their fees affordable because of increasing costs and relatively low state reimbursement rates.
Quality: Studies show that long-term benefits of high-quality preschool include 1.3 fewer years in special education and a 40% higher likelihood of graduating high school. But only around 13% of California’s low-income kids are in high-quality preschool. California’s preschool standards promote program quality, but the state’s program still ranks lower than 36 other states on select quality benchmarks.
Pro-Kid® Policy Agenda
California must ensure every child has access to quality preschool, and capitalize on the recent expansion of state preschool and transitional kindergarten to achieve that goal, starting with low-income children.
After several years of budget cuts, the state has made some significant new investments in preschool access, affordability and quality. The state preschool program expanded by 21,000 spaces and regulations for entry to transitional kindergarten were clarified so that more children can attend. Reimbursement rate increases for preschool providers will help ensure programs retain experienced teachers and can afford high-quality training and materials. The state has also continued investments in the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for state preschool programs to support workforce development and continuous quality improvement.