With philanthropic support, locales are experimenting with what it takes to reform early learning. They aim to make sure that all community adults have the tools they need to support children’s development.
In the national movement to transform the teaching of our youngest children, California has not been a pioneer. In our 2015 report Not Golden Yet: Building a Stronger Workforce for Young Children in California, we found that the state was not doing enough to prepare early childhood educators to ensure its children are learning and developing important skills for school and life.
The state does not have universal pre-K. Transitional kindergarten, introduced in 2012, created a new public school grade for some four-year-olds who had previously been served by California’s kindergarten, but only those with fall birthdays are eligible. California has dropped to 41st in the nation in per pupil spending for K–12, when adjusted for cost of living. Its new funding formula for public education, intended to make funding more equitable, provides a lot of opportunities, but advocates say more resources are needed if the state is to adequately prepare its children—many of whom are low-income, children of color, and dual language learners. A new governor (Gov. Jerry Brown reaches the end of his term in December) brings the possibility of more substantial reforms on behalf of young children.
New America has been following work in three of the communities that, with the support of the Starting Smart and Strong Initiative from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, are working to provide stronger teaching and caregiving by 2025. Leaders in Fresno, Oakland, and a school district in San Jose are reforming how early childhood programs work and teachers are trained.