Groups want early ed block grant pulled from this year's state budget
Stephanie Baltazar, left, and Yaretzi Orozco enjoy a book at a Kidango preschool in San Jose.As the deadline for the May Revision of the state budget approaches, a group of education organizations is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to remove his proposed early education block grant from the budget process.
The organizations – including the California State PTA, the California School Boards Association, CASBO, early education advocates, school districts, preschool providers and unions – say Brown’s current budget proposal to consolidate preschool and transitional kindergarten funding into one $1.6 billion early learning block grant “is a significant policy change that warrants discussion outside the fiscal process.” The organizations made the statement in a letter they emailed to Brown on Feb. 18.
Brown sees his proposal – which would give control of the funding to school districts – as a way to simplify an unnecessarily complex system, use cost savings to free up preschool funding for more low-income children, and expand the concept of local control already implemented in the K-12 school finance system. This year, the state is spending $3.5 billion for 436,185 child care and preschool slots. The governor’s budget calls for the number of slots to increase by almost 19,000 in 2016-17, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
In response to the letter, Deborah Hoffman, deputy press secretary for the governor’s office, said in an email that “we look forward to working with the Legislature and stakeholders to enact a block grant that best serves California’s lowest-income and most at-risk children.”
The groups applaud the governor for taking on the challenge of streamlining a complex funding system, but say the proposal is fraught with contentious issues that need more time to be fully addressed. These issues include whether the funding would be vulnerable during a recession, leaving quality and income eligibility up to local districts, and the fate of state-funded preschools run by private providers.
The Department of Finance has been holding a series of meetings with early education advocates to flesh out the rather broadly stated proposal. But the organizations say the remaining public meetings with the Department of Finance – at locations across the state on Feb. 29 and two scheduled in Sacramento in March – don’t allow sufficient time to vet such a significant proposal. The proposal deserves the kind of in-depth, multiple-year Groups want early ed block grant pulled from this year’s state budget | EdSource: