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Early Ed is part of the State's future

Leaked online last night, Governor Brown’s 2014-2015 budget contains significant investments in schools, additional aid to children and families, and a healthy projected surplus for a state that has not seen such positive figures in years.  

Yet the Governor’s Budget Summary contains no language that speaks to the need for increased investment in preschool, or early childhood education.

The Governor’s plan demonstrates his keen interest in investing in the future, including: 

  • A plan to fund K-14 education with $69.6 billion by 2017 through the historic Local Control Funding Formula;
  • A $670 million investment to fund the expansion of Medi-Cal benefits, to make sure that the most vulnerable among us have access to health care;
  • Robust investments in higher education infrastructure and student development; and
  • Reforms to the state’s Rainy Day Fund that will help the state weather disastrous boom-and-bust budget cycles.

The plan also includes proposals on environmental protection, transportation infrastructure, and corrections reforms. Cumulatively, they demonstrate the thinking of a governor intent on making sure his vision of a stronger California is realized not just today, but long after he’s gone.

And yet, there is no mention whatsoever of early education. The Governor’s smart plan for the future of this state omits one of the most potent investments in its infrastructure: the development of California’s youngest citizens.

An extensive literature indicates that early education increases school readiness, teaches strong emotional and social skills that translate into increased rates of high school completion and college readiness, and significantly decreases a child’s interactions with the criminal justice system.

A report issued by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids puts the total states correction’s saving at around $1.1 billion over ten years, with a reduction in the state’s prison population by 13,000 inmates every year.

No other public investment has been shown to create such a high rate of return on the tax payer’s dollar while at the same time leveraging the potential of millions of children.

For the governor’s investments to succeed – from his historic school reforms and deep commitment to increased rigor through the Common Core, to his plans to reform state prisons and revitalize higher education – his agenda must include the solid insurance policy that is early childhood education.

Quality early education should play a central role in any conversation about California’s future. The Governor should consider the careful thinking included in the Transitional Kindergarten for All bill, authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, as well as the Assembly Democrat’s focus on early education reform in their Budget Blueprint.

At the end of the day, complex forecasts and detailed budget plans should represent the deeply held values we have for the real people throughout our state.

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