Legislation introduced in Congress last week that would expand public preschool could serve as a wake-up call in California to beef up early education programs, advocates here say.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. The bill follows President Barack Obama’s call earlier this year for a new federal grant program for states wishing to create or expand their public preschool programs.
The new legislation, which closely mirrors the president’s proposal, lays out a dozen qualifications state preschool programs must meet or be working toward to be eligible for funding. California’s state-funded preschool program falls short on most of them.
“In our state, we’re lagging behind,” said Mark Friedman, the executive director of First 5 Alameda County, a taxpayer-funded commission working to improve child care and education services for children under age 5. “We have to work with the Legislature and with the governor to make the changes required to make funds a possibility if (the law) is passed in Washington.”
It’s “wildly optimistic” to hope that the preschool proposal will pass in the 113th Congress, Friedman said. And if it did pass, California wouldn’t be compelled to change anything. Participation in the proposed program would be optional and states would be given significant leeway in how they structure their preschool programs.
But that shouldn’t stop California from bringing its state-funded preschool program up to the quality