In summary

California’s new “Master Plan for Early Learning and Care” creates an equitable and inclusive Early Learning and Care system for all children.

By Patricia Lozano

Patricia Lozano is the executive director of Early Edge California, an advocacy organization, info@earlyedgecalifornia.org.

Mayra E. Alvarez, Special to CalMatters

Mayra E. Alvarez is president of The Children’s Partnership, a nonprofit advocacy organization, malvarez@childrenspartnership.org.

Lea este artículo en español. 

California has a new blueprint to deliver on our commitment to meet the Early Learning needs of every California child while improving the quality and training of their teachers and caregivers. The plan is a critical start to meeting our kids’ developmental needs by ensuring equitable access to high-quality health and learning opportunities.

California’s new Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: Making California For All Kids builds upon decades of research, advocacy and legislation to create an equitable and inclusive Early Learning and Care system. We should embrace it and put it to work.

The master plan’s team of independent researchers examined research recommendations – including the Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission report – and the existing system. They analyzed data, listened to parents and community groups and relied upon the expertise of the Early Childhood Policy Council – 27 diverse California stakeholders, including childcare providers, advocates and experts in the field.

The result is a model to create a whole child comprehensive system of wraparound services that supports a diverse childhood population; offers high-quality childcare and Universal Pre-K; seizes the opportunity of dual-language learning; and, cares for children with special needs. 

It builds a competency-based workforce development system; implements funding reform to support equitable access and sustain a high-quality workforce, and new data systems to advance equity and continuous improvement. It also underscores the need to utilize the leadership, trust and community centeredness of our Early Learning and Care system to connect families to health and social services. 

We know that we need to rebuild from COVID-19 with equity at the core of supporting kids and the teachers who work with them. Parents, especially those most in need and from historically marginalized communities, need information, access and program choices that meet their children’s needs. 

More than half of California’s kids under age 6 speak a language other than English at home. Central to the success of this system is providing Early Learning teachers with the professional development, opportunity and compensation they need to provide high-quality care and learning to every child.

We cannot realize the benefits of dual-language learning without a system and workforce to support it. Nearly 60% of Early Learning teachers rely on public assistance to make ends meet. They need the financial means to access teacher training opportunities and a wage reflecting their value to our society. In addition, we must consolidate California’s disjointed programs and oversight into an efficient system that serves the needs of all kids and their families.

The master plan calls for providing relief to parents, children and providers in the wake of COVID-19. From March through October this year, an estimated 4,400 family childcare homes and 9,181 childcare centers closed temporarily, while 2,030 family childcare homes and 390 centers closed permanently. This has greatly impacted the Early Learning workforce and left families struggling to work and care for their kids.

Once we stabilize the present, we can turn to the future. The master plan recommends building a comprehensive and inclusive system, and it opens the door to work on breaking down silos between Early Learning programs, childhood health services and family-strengthening supports for stronger children, families and communities.

Admittedly, creating a California For All Kids requires time and money. Both are in short supply these days. Some will say that this plan comes at the wrong time, that it is overly ambitious. We believe that having a plan that integrates decades of advocacy, legislation and public investment is exactly the prescription that California needs.

The master plan shows that California is prepared to take on the challenge and partner with those who want to make change. Our best chance for more federal funding lies with the incoming Biden-Harris administration that has telegraphed its own ambitious plans for early learning and care that align with California For All Kids.

We can’t build a California For All Kids without a master plan. Now we have one. Let’s get to work.

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Patricia has also written about prioritizing the needs of our Dual Language Learners in the time of COVID-19.

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