AN APPROACH TO DESIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING UNIVERSAL PREKINDERGARTEN IN CALIFORNIA
This inclusive framework serves as a decision-making model for school districts, policymakers, and community leaders to create innovative TK programs that benefit and uplift the entire school community through a whole child, whole family, whole community approach.
Today’s Child Care Crisis
For too many parents, finding child care and early education programs that are high-quality, accessible, and affordable is a challenge. Did you know the average California family with two children spends 30% of their income on child care every year? The high cost of child care is causing families to make the difficult choice between spending their money on child care or having one parent, typically the mother, leave the workforce altogether to become a full-time caregiver. At the same time, our child care system fails to support the people who care for, nurture, and educate our youngest children as child care providers are among the lowest paid workers in the country. There is a significant need to resolve the foundational flaws in America’s child care sector caused by decades of underinvestment that have resulted in both a strain on parents and low pay for child care providers.
The YMCA’s Connection to Child Care
The YMCA of San Diego County has been assisting families with finding and paying for child care for the past 40 years. In 2020, YMCA Childcare Resource Service helped more than 39,000 families in San Diego find and pay for child care in a setting of their choice. We understand how critical access to quality early childhood education is and how foundational it can be for a child’s learning, behavior, relationships, and physical and mental health throughout their lifetime. We also know that when families have access to full-day, full-year quality child care, parents are more likely to maintain employment and sustain wages that keep families strong.
California’s Universal Transitional Kindergarten Program
To alleviate some of this financial burden from parents and ensure all children have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities and care, the State of California is making transformative and unprecedented investments in early learning and education. As part of the TK-12 Education Trailer Bill (AB 130) passed in July 2021, California is rolling out its Universal Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program and providing funding for expanded learning, community schools, and other wraparound services and support designed to address students’ academic, social, and emotional well-being. Because of this new policy, TK will be available to all four-year-olds in California by the 2025-2026 school year.
Looking at the Big Picture
While there are many benefits to offering a free transitional kindergarten program to all California families, it is imperative that policymakers and school districts design innovative TK programs that consider and reflect the diverse needs and perspectives of the community that is a part of a larger Universal Prekindergarten system. As with most policies, there are many complexities and implications to consider. How will universal TK impact the child care sector? Will this cause costs to rise for infant and toddler care? How can half-day TK programs support working families who work full-time? Are public schools ready to teach four-year-olds? Who can schools partner with to expand resources and meet community needs?
The YMCA of San Diego County is pleased to announce the release of an original research piece, An Inclusive Framework: Designing and Implementing Universal Prekindergarten in California. This framework explores the unique needs of students and families, expanded learning providers, child care providers, and schools and educators and offers a series of recommendations to meet these needs.
To build capacity in our child care system, we must ensure that the entire child care infrastructure is able to serve more families. As a parent and community member, your voices and experiences are needed and appreciated. Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Participate in your local school district’s Transitional Kindergarten planning process, a community planning process to set the district’s goals, actions, services, and resources, where you can share your perspective and needs.
- Join or follow the Children First Collective San Diego, a caring group of organizations and leaders working to dramatically increase access to affordable, quality child care in our San Diego County communities.
- Advocate on the local, state, and national levels for high-quality, affordable, and accessible early childhood education and the ability for parents to choose the setting that best meets their needs, including Universal Preschool State Senate Bill SB 976 that will strengthen the entire early learning and care sector.
Want to learn more?
Connect with Courtney Baltiyskyy, Director of Advocacy and Strategic Partnership.