There is a new beginning in California for economic development and ending mass incarceration. Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to allot an additional $265 million to fund 7,000 additional preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots, plus a rate increase for all providers. It’s a major step forward for the state we call home. Growing a robust middle class and reducing crime begins with a strong start for each and every child.
Governor Brown just announced a budget agreement with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, consistent with his May revenue estimates. We live in one of the wealthiest places in the world, yet approximately 60,000 children in Santa Clara County live below the poverty line.
Families with financial means are able to provide high quality learning education experiences for their children from birth to kindergarten. Families that struggle financially to make ends meet are not able to provide comparable learning experiences.
This gap in early learning creates the achievement gap in later years.
A coalition of Silicon Valley leaders traveled to the state Capitol last week to be the voice for those children who, by chance, are born with little opportunity to enroll in high quality early learning programs. Our Strong Start coalition included representatives from the SJSV Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, SV2 Building and Scaling Social Innovations, Oak Grove School District, Educare and First Five.
We met all day in the governor’s conference room and also met with nearly a dozen state leaders including Cathy McBride, the governor’s deputy legislative secretary and chief education advisor, Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff to Assm. Atkins (D-San Diego), Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), and Erin Gable, of First 5 California. Capitol Advisors arranged the meetings with these individuals, tabbing people they think could have the biggest impact in persuading Gov. Brown to increase early learning slots.
The trip included my colleagues Board President Darcie Green, Trustee Grace Mah, Superintendent Jon Gundry and Dr. Mary Ann Dewan. On Tuesday, I received a text from Barrett Snider, a partner at Capitol Advisors, to know that our “lobbying efforts around early learning clearly contributed to the success” of the early learning being included in the final budget deal. “This is pretty significant win for early learning considering the Governor prevailed on assuming lower revenues,” Snider added.
A verbal report said the package includes the following (subject to change when we see final language):
- 6,800 voucher slots
- 5,800 Full-Day slots within Proposition 98
- 1,200 Full-Day slots (half Prop 98 and half non-Prop 98)
- 5-5 percent increase in child care reimbursement
An important strategic partner in our quest to fund early childhood education programs has been the local Chamber of Commerce. Matthew Mahood, CEO and president of the Chamber, wrote to the governor last week on behalf of his 1,500 member businesses and 65-member Board of Directors. Mahood asked him to support the Assembly’s $605 million investment in early childhood education. Although the budget deal provides nearly half of the Assembly version, the governor’s original budget was at zero.
“As a Chamber, we feel that an increasingly substantive body of research exists that shows investing in early childhood education is highly effective in combating numerous societal problems,” Mahood wrote. “As examples, this investment has been shown to increase high school graduation rates, college attendance and graduation, decrease crime, and grow a stronger economy with a more robust middle class…”
We should celebrate the governor’s willingness to use $265 million to fund early education for low-income children. But we also must make sure to keep the main goal in mind—getting 100 percent of these children the head start they need.