Gov. Brown Has Call to Make on Early Education

In February, the county Board of Education unanimously voted to adopt a resolution in support SB 837 by state Sen. Darrell Steinberg. The bill is known as the “Kindergarten Readiness Act,” and its goal is to provide early education access to every 4-year-old in the state. The “Strong Start” task force begun by three members of the county Board last year has worked on the same goal on behalf of all children in the county. Despite local and state efforts in high gear, however, we might not be any closer to its implementation.

Low-income children are often so behind in their language development that they never catch up with their middle-income and wealthier peers. Remediation and special education are costly interventions. In many instances, these efforts fall short of the goal. This leads to an unsustainable pattern of low academic achievement.

Gov. Jerry Brown, in his first stint in Sacramento, was a bold and courageous leader. I was a graduate student and 20-something alternative education teacher, and I admired him greatly.

But today, the 75-year-old Brown refuses to support a cost-effective intervention of the achievement gap. Continuing down the path we’re on is suicide. When fully funded, the cost of the program in five years is near $1 billion—but the savings is more than $7 billion annually.

It’s a no-brainer. Research shows that increases in kindergarten readiness, especially in language development, lead to better achievement, reduces crime, raises economic trajectory, and increases higher education attendance rates.

Universal preschool is an attainable goal for California this budget cycle. Gov. Brown is unusually popular with a 60 percent approval rating. And yet, he is being overly cautious to a fault. The governor must find the political courage to support SB 837 soon or the bill's will not succeed.

Children are our most important resource, but we must also invest in them. SB 837’s passage would be a huge step forward.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

4 Comments

  1. It’s editorializing to call a $1 billion expenditure a no-brainer. The governor has calls to make on the future financial viability of the state, and on water policy, and agriculture, and a lot of things that are going to be as high or higher on the priority list than this.

    • What follows may seem like an ad hominem attack, but isn’t really.

      The fact that the author ran for office unopposed in the last election is an indication that his constituents really don’t care about education. The continuing wasting of tax dollars (that could have gone toward education) with transient schools chiefs (and their condos and mortgages), and the inability to figure out how to pay taxes to the Federal Government is part of what you get when voters don’t care about schools.

      To his credit, Gov. Brown is spending his time worrying about California. He isn’t trying to do Obama’s job.

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