California state budget investments and policies must promote equity by serving the highest-need children first
OAKLAND, Calif. – A new poll released by The Education Trust–West (ETW), the Advancement Project California, The Children’s Partnership, The Center for District Innovation and Leadership in Early Education, Early Edge California, and Child360 reveals that 74 percent of California parents of children ages 0 to 5 are worried that their child’s education and development will suffer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost a year after ETW initially polled parents of young children, child care costs are rising and limiting access for many families. Parents are delaying the start of TK or kindergarten due to fear of COVID-19 exposure, and as a result, an overwhelming 60 percent of parents worry their child will fall behind when they do start school.
The pandemic is causing many parents to experience financial and food insecurity. Fifty-nine percent of parents from low-income communities and 40 percent of parents of color, including 43 percent of Latinx parents, say they feel uneasy about their personal finances over the next several months. More than a third of parents (36 percent) say they have skipped meals or their child’s meals as a result of the pandemic.
“The pandemic continues to significantly disrupt the lives of families, particularly families of color and families from low-income communities,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West. “As they face chronic financial and food insecurities, families with young children are sacrificing quality child care, skipping meals, and delaying the start of schooling for their children. Child care and early childhood education are not only vital for children and working families to thrive — especially Black and Latinx families — they are essential to the recovery of California’s economy.”
Not only do 70 percent of parents worry about their family’s mental health, almost a third of parents (31 percent) are concerned about the impact of substance abuse and domestic violence as a result of the pandemic (an eight-point increase since April). As families look ahead to the 2021-22 school year, parents increasingly worry (64 percent in 2021 vs. 59 percent in 2020) they will have to make sacrifices in their own schooling and career during the pandemic to care for their children. This number is even higher in the Bay Area, where 72 percent of families face these concerns.
“We agree with parents that state investments and policies can and should provide much-needed relief and assistance to California families,” continued Smith Arrillaga. “The Education Trust–West is advocating that Governor Newsom’s 2021-22 budget prioritize those recommendations in the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care focused on serving the highest-need children and families first. Policy and budgetary decisions must be informed by current research and promising practices and led by the expertise of families and early childhood professionals. Failing to prioritize and invest sufficiently in child care and early education now will only intensify inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.”
Key Poll Findings
- Many parents are experiencing financial barriers to accessing child care. Before the pandemic, 49 percent of parents say that cost was the largest barrier when looking for a child care provider. The pandemic has only made it worse — 41 percent of parents who have returned their child to a child care program say that the costs have gone up. Additionally, 50 percent of parents also say that their child care facility has limited its hours, decreasing accessibility.
- Parents are worried about the health implications of their child returning to a care program. When it comes to child care programs and preschools, 99 percent of parents of young children say a setting that keeps their child safe and healthy is important.
- Among parents who chose not to enroll their children in TK or kindergarten, 78 percent chose not to because they were uncomfortable exposing their family to COVID-19. Of parents who withdrew their children from childcare, 86 percent withdrew from an in-person program.
- Parents are almost evenly split on whether to enroll or homeschool their children during the 2021-22 school year. Twenty-five percent of parents will enroll their children in first grade in public school, 22 percent will enroll in first grade private school, and 26 percent will pursue homeschooling. Approximately 20 percent of parents are still undecided. Sixty percent of parents worry their child will fall behind when they start TK or kindergarten.
- Forty-six percent of parents see value in placing their child in a program where a language other than English is taught, even if that language is not their home language. Thirty-three percent of respondents whose children are currently enrolled in an English-only program would enroll their child in a program where a language other than English is taught if given the opportunity.
- Parents support public investments in early childhood education and services. Nearly all parents of young children (96 percent) say they support investing more public funds in expanding access to quality, affordable child care and preschool for families with young children in the state, including well over a majority (65 percent) who say they strongly support greater investment (a four-point increase since April). Additionally, 90 percent of parents also say California should be doing more to ensure infants and toddlers in California are healthy and developmentally on track at birth and throughout childhood.
As elected officials look to understand and mitigate the sizable negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on California’s families, ETW urges Governor Newsom and the legislature to:
- Invest in a powerful and sustained multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment to stabilize and reimagine California’s critical early care and education system to better serve families, including equitable access to affordable high-quality programs and waiving of family fees through the pandemic for families receiving subsidized care.
- Provide bold state investments that strengthen and expand support for early educators, including raising reimbursement rates; offering flexible stipends to cover COVID-related costs; and providing targeted professional development on trauma-informed care, working with dual language learners (DLLs), and anti-bias practices.
- Create whole-family wellness hubs in our most under-resourced communities that connect families to social supports such as housing, health care, legal services, and education. Streamline enrollment across public benefits programs to make it easier for families to enroll in programs and quickly access health, food, housing, and other supports.
- Track long-term changes in equitable opportunities and outcomes, particularly for vulnerable students, by maintaining the Cradle-to-Career Data System.
- Establish a process to identify DLLs in early childhood education to support quality early learning that builds on the linguistic skills and needs of all children.
- Provide opportunities for young children to develop their home language as they acquire English by expanding dual language and other bilingual programs in the early years, ensuring that DLLs are prioritized for enrollment in these programs.
- Expand high-quality preschool programs to serve all four-year-olds in order to provide them with a critical foundation and better prepare them for kindergarten and beyond.
- Increase investment in food and other public benefits programs available to all families regardless of their immigration status.
- Provide more access to health and mental health services through continuous coverage in Medi-Cal for young children 0-5 post-pandemic and for 12 months postpartum.
- Ensure digital access to increase community outreach and access to telehealth services, and invest in community-centered mental health services.
About this poll:
Global Strategy Group (GSG) partnered with The Education Trust–West to conduct an online survey (via web-based panel) among 600 parents of children under the age of six in California from February 1st – 16th, 2021. This is the second survey among parents GSG has conducted with The Education Trust–West on this topic, following an earlier survey in April of 2020 (conducted April 18th – 22nd).
The survey had a confidence interval of +/-4.0%. Confidence interval is higher among subgroups. Care has been taken to ensure the geographic and demographic divisions of parents of young children in California are properly represented. For the purposes of this research, “parents of color” indicates parents who do not self-identify as white or identify as white but also identify as Hispanic or Spanish-speaking American.
About The Education Trust—West
The Education Trust—West works for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college, in the state of California. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.
About Advancement Project California
Advancement Project California is a multi-racial, multi-generational racial justice organization with expertise in research, advocacy, and policy. We work with partners and communities to expand educational opportunities for California’s children, create healthy and safe neighborhoods, ensure communities of color have a voice in our democracy, strengthen movement-building, and shift public investments toward programs that benefit all Californians—not just the privileged few.
About Child 360
Child360 is a leading nonprofit working toward a future where every child has the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. We support the development of the whole child, beginning at birth, through early childhood education program support, professional development, advocacy, research, and community and family engagement.
About The Children’s Partnership
The Children’s Partnership is a California–based children’s advocacy organization committed to improving the lives of marginalized children where they live, learn, and play with breakthrough solutions at the intersection of research, policy, and community engagement.
About The District Innovation and Leadership for Early Education Initiative
The Center for District Innovation and Leadership for Early Education (DIAL EE) utilizes content experts, data, research, and a continuous improvement process to assist Districts with aligning early education and K12 systems to improve outcomes for all children preschool through 5th grade.
About Early Edge California
Early Edge California is a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving access to high-quality Early Learning experiences for all California children.