California should increase funding for early education; SVCF and partners ready to help streamline systems

Members of the Silicon Valley Children’s Advocacy Network (SV-CAN) met at SVCF on May 19, 2016. The network includes more than 30 organizations from Silicon Valley business, government, philanthropy, education and nonprofit sectors.

Avo Makdessian
Gina Dalma

Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown released his May budget revision. Under the umbrella of spending cautiously, streamlining delivery of educational services and saving for a rainy day, Gov. Brown failed to budget for new investments in early education. He also proposed to limit enrollment in the Transitional Kindergarten school grade, which currently serves about 80,000 4-year-olds throughout California. 

These proposals come at a time when the state of California is already spending $800 million less on early education than it was in 2008. This lack of investment has hit home in Silicon Valley, as well as in other regions. Here in one of the most affluent regions in the country, for example, 8,000 low-income 3- and 4-year-olds have no access to preschool. And the governor’s proposal to limit Transitional Kindergarten could mean that 4,600 students who need an extra year of preparedness and learning to allow them to thrive academically won’t get to attend Transitional Kindergarten in 2016-17.

Why is this important? As we’ve noted previously, research has confirmed time and again that investing in early childhood education programs is the best way to ensure academic success, reduce public budget deficits and strengthen the economy.

A recent National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) report ranked California 28th in the nation in number of low-income children who have access to preschool. Recently the nonprofit Education Week’s “Quality Counts” report gave California a D+ grade for K-12 education and ranked the state 41st in the nation for educational quality. These deplorable rankings are no surprise given that California has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of children in poverty in the nation. And yet our state government is not investing in early childhood education, which is an effective, proven method of tackling poverty.  

Silicon Valley understands the benefits of early learning, and its advocates are banding together to speak with one voice on behalf of children. Over the past six months, SVCF has coordinated and hosted forums for Silicon Valley business, government, philanthropy, education and nonprofit sectors to come together and align advocacy for early learning. On May 19, this coalition of more than 30 Silicon Valley organizations decided to write a letter to the state Legislature advocating for additional resources to serve the most vulnerable children in the Valley.

We believe the governor’s goal of streamlining the early education system can be accomplished in an inclusive and thoughtful manner. SVCF and our partners have offered to help the state host public policy discussions with early education experts and parents over the next year to design a streamlined, high-quality and accessible early education system. We hope the California Legislature will take us up on this measured approach. Our children and families deserve it – and deserve a higher level of funding from our state government.