Funding Is Up But Quality Isn't At California Preschools

(A student at Mother's Club in Pasadena, low-income families receive subsidized preschoolCredit: Deepa Fernandes)

More young kids are being enrolled in preschool, and California is providing more funding, but a new report finds the state below the national average when it comes to quality.

The report — from the National Institute for Early Education Research — doesn't include Los Angeles-specific data, but it's relevant because nearly 25% of the roughly 3 million California kids aged 5 and under live in L.A. County.

But the potential impact is huge statewide. More than 15% of all children in all state-funded preschools in the country are in California.

The report included a look at the 2017-2018 school year for:

- California State Preschool Program (CSPP)

- Transitional Kindergarten (TK) — the extra year of school that districts provide for some 4-year-olds with birthdays late in the year.

The goal of these programs is to support the development of young children with quality learning experiences that start them off on a strong path in school.

(National Institute for Early Education Research)

The report grades state programs on 10 benchmarks, looking at things like class size, child-teacher ratio and whether teachers are required to have a bachelor's degree.

For quality, the California programs got an average score of just 4.3 out of 10. CSPP scored 6/10, but Transitional Kindergarten only checked two of the boxes. That's because TK teachers, although required to have BAs, may not be specifically trained to work with young children, and because class sizes are often bigger and children may not get health screenings.

A multi-year analysis has shown TK to be effective overall, but it depends on the school and the school district. The research group wants to see consistent quality standards built into state policy.

This year, there's also a special section in the report that looks at wages for the preschool workforce.

On average, a lead teacher in a state preschool program is earning $30,000 a year — a whopping $50,000 less than an elementary grade teacher in a public school.

The legislature and the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom have efforts underway to expand access, quality, and support for the workforce.

Meanwhile, it comes to the amount of money the state spends on each child, California ranks near the top, coming in at number eight.

Explore the report entire report here: