All of our kids matter.
Although California needs to improve in secondary education performance, California leads the way in formulating pre-Kindergarten standards. The Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission (“BLC”) on Early Childhood Education is the Legislature’s effort to plan an early learning system that works for children, families and providers. BLC held hearings over the past two years toward the core vision of developing strategic solutions to improve outcomes for young learners in California. BLC is now ready to report.
The 84 page draft report is comprehensive. From governance, administration, access, workforce, systems, infrastructure, and financing, the draft report lays out a solid blueprint for our state’s pre-Kindergarten standards.
By far the most intriguing BLC recommendations are the recommendations for family engagement. Parents should and must have a strong voice and guiding California is the early childhood education system. BLC kept families at the center of deliberations by inviting parents to public hearings and holding parents focus groups across the state. Families and parents must have real choices. Early childhood education must be affordable and available during the times families work, go to school, or engage in other activities to earn a living and move toward economic security. Driving to serve all families and children while focusing on removing barriers for those separated from opportunity due to poverty, racial bias, language, geographic isolation, disability, and other factors is a primary objective.
While our economy remains driven by two parents working, the need for good quality childcare has now involved early childhood education opportunities. Stability is the key. These opportunities must not be financed by hiring support and teachers through low wages and lack of basic benefits. These profit motivators create instability. Providers must be lifted up across their various roles and settings, while investments are simultaneously made to meet the needs of the children and families they serve. This process should also include uplifting tribal childcare and childcare in low income communities. Existing programs like “Headstart” should be expanded to meet the needs of children age 3 to 5.
The BLC report serves as a springboard for the California legislature to enact public policy and implement its strong and bold recommendations. The California Department of Education and the California Department of Social Services must work in conjunction with the Governor and the Legislature to make sure that California education system for early childhood education is the best in the country. This BLC report is a fantastic leap forward.
Alan Geraci, is a former Candidate for the 75th California Assembly District and a consumer attorney.