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Universal Preschool bill backed by CCRC advances in Senate

The Universal Preschool bill sponsored by California Senator Connie Leyva and supported by CCRC has passed out of the Senate Education Committee without any opposition. The proposed law, Senate Bill 976, would ensure families have flexibility in their child care options once the Governor’s plan to implement Universal Preschool takes effect in 2025.

“Many states have implemented these models with varying degrees of success,” CCRC Chief Strategy Officer Donna Sneeringer said during the Wednesday hearing on the bill. “California has an opportunity to learn from these other efforts.”

The senator’s proposed legislation builds upon the Governor’s plan to implement by 2025 universal transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. SB 976 incorporates into the state’s plan existing community-based care providers who already offer high-quality, flexible care. It would also provide much-needed stability for licensed community-based providers and their employees, many of whom are women of color, by ensuring they will not be forced to close due to declining enrollment of preschool-aged children.  

“California took a step forward toward the development of a Universal preschool system with a multi-year plan and investment in Transitional Kindergarten in our schools,” Donna testified. “While this was an important step, it didn’t address many of the critical components of a comprehensive mixed delivery universal preschool system which meets the wide array of needs of California’s Children and working families.”

Justin Blakely, Public Policy Associate at Crystal Stairs, testified that this legislation is necessary because children develop at different rates.

“Not all children will be developmentally ready to be on a larger school campus and will need a culturally nurturing environment that provides unstructured time and play-based learning,” Justin said. “And to speak on behalf of our children and families here in the South LA community, elevating the fact of having a culturally nurturing environment that meets the needs of our children is so critical to their development and we must not take that opportunity and option away from our families because it serves as a tremendous benefit in their very early years of development and learning.

To be successful in its delivery of Universal Preschool, Donna and Justin agreed with the bill’s sponsor that the full system of care that supports children, families and the state’s economy must be protected by engaging all parties. That includes schools, existing family child care, center-based care, and Head Start Programs.

“One thing is clear – utilization of a mixed delivery model which engages and builds upon our existing programs in centers, family child care homes and Head Start is critical to the overall success of not only our preschool efforts but also our overall system of child care for all children 0-12 and for their working parents,” Donna testified.

“California working families with children need and deserve more flexibility and options so that they truly benefit from transitional kindergarten, since many are currently unable to access those services for their kids,” Senator Leyva said. “SB 976 will help to make sure that families will continue to have high-quality and full-day options for their early learners.  (The bill) will offer flexibility to families, ensure care and learning options for children, and help to keep the primarily women-driven community-based childcare provider industry providing these critical services.”

Sen. Leyva introduced SB976.

A total of 18 organizations and two individuals provided public comment in support of the bill. There was no public comment in opposition. The Committee voted to pass the bill as amended.

Support for the bill in the Senate Education Committee is a big step forward in what will be several rounds of hearings and votes in both the Senate and Assembly. SB976 is sponsored by the Child Care Resource Center, EveryChild California, First 5 California and the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network. Along with the strong coalition of bill sponsors, SB 976 has also already earned the support of dozens of children, parent, education and community organizations from across the state, including California Alternative Payment Program Association, Children Now, Crystal Stairs Inc., Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Parent Voices California, ReadyNation and San Bernardino City Unified School District, among others.

The next hearing is set for April 19th in the Senate Human Services Committee.

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