A longtime advocate of early childhood education, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, has joined his colleague, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, to introduce a trio of bills that would make high-quality preschool programs universally accessible for California children.

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Swearing in Day for Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Dec. 3, 2018.

Garcia, barely sworn into his third term, joined McCarty to introduce a strategic and comprehensive three-pronged approach to make preschool (Pre-K) programs accessible to all 3 and 4-year-old children across California.

The legislative package includes:

AB 123: Pre-K for All: Targeted Universal Access

Currently, the state budget provides nearly $1.2 billion annually for free early education to approximately 175,000 low-income and middle class families, but there are still thousands of needy 3- and 4-year-olds who don’t have access to preschool.  AB 123 will expand on the existing California State Preschool Program (CSPP) and:

  • Offer Targeted Universal Pre-K for 4-year-olds that reside in school attendance areas where 70 percent of children enroll in free and reduced-priced lunch programs.
  • Offer an additional year of preschool for 3-year old children living in poverty.
  • Improve quality standards with evidenced-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum that is aligned to K-12 standards.

AB 124: Preschool Facilities

The existing preschool facilities need, coupled with the additional slots from the Pre-K for All Act, compels the state to plan for and build new preschool classrooms.

AB 124, the Preschool Facilities Bond, would:

  • Place a $500 million bond on the 2020 ballot for acquisition, construction, or retrofit of surplus classrooms.
  • Provide funds to local educational agencies and community benefit organizations that hold CSPP contracts.

AB 125: Reimbursement Rate Reform

California’s childcare and preschool reimbursement rate system is difficult to understand and underfunded to the point that providers cannot reasonably deliver quality early learning services. AB 125, Reimbursement Rate Reform, is designed to:

  • Simplify reimbursement rates by managing the mixed-delivery system as a single, regionalized rate system for all early learning services.
  • Increase rates to competitively compensate teachers and providers based on quality standards.
  • Incentivize quality by providing financial incentives for ongoing professional development and rewarding higher quality standards of care.

These measures, which are sponsored by California Federation of Teachers, Early Edge California, Kidango, Advancement Project, and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, are expected to run complementary with Governor-elect Gavin Newsom’s own early education platform.

Universal preschool is an international movement to use public funding to ensure high quality preschool is available to all families.

Research shows that early brain development in young children is pivotal, not only to their success in school, but to their overall well-being and prospects in life. Many California children, however, enter kindergarten unprepared for school and never catch up.

“Prioritizing investments in early education establishes the necessary foundation for building a robust economy and an overall thriving California,” stated Assemblymember Garcia. “Universal preschool will help ensure our children can enter elementary on an equal footing and empower our communities with the means to curb poverty cycles.”

Garcia, who has been a longtime proponent of universal preschool, praised McCarty for his diligent efforts on this issue as well as for visiting his district on multiple occasions to meet with those who have an interest or concern on this issue.

“Preschool is a proven difference maker—breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty, addressing our education achievement gap and keeping kids out of our juvenile justice system,” said Assemblymember McCarty.

A report released in September, “Getting Down to Facts II” summarized the issue: “California’s children are behind before they enter Kindergarten. The system needs a continued focus on closing achievement gaps through multiple approaches including enhanced early childhood education.”

In addition to Garcia and McCarty, the Pre-K for All Legislative Package is jointly authored by Assemblymembers Autumn Burke, Marc Berman, Rob Bonta, Wendy Carrillo, David Chiu, Laura Friedman, Lorena Gonzalez, Monique Limón, Eloise Gómez Reyes, Miguel Santiago, Buffy Wicks, Phil Ting and Senators Bill Dodd, and Jerry Hill.

Garcia represents the 56th district, which comprises the cities and communities of Blythe, Brawley, Bermuda Dunes, Calexico, Calipatria, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, El Centro, Holtville, Imperial, Indio, Mecca, Oasis, North Shore, Salton Sea, Thermal, Thousand Palms, and Westmorland. He serves as the chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife.

Photo caption above: Early Childhood Education Hearing, March 2, 2018. Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and his daughter, Ella Garcia.