Last week, the California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on Early Childhood Education published its draft recommendations after a two year process of hearings and feedback. (Written comments on the draft will be accepted until March 20th.) The draft report makes a lengthy list of recommendations in nine key areas: Governance and Administration, Family Engagement, Access for Children and Families, Workforce, Quality Improvement, Systems and Infrastructure, Facilities and Supply, Coordination and Alignment, and Financing, and also includes a section on recommendations from parent focus groups. While the recommendations vary from detailed to aspirational, there are a number that are closely aligned to Santa Clara County’s 2017 Early Learning Master Plan (ELMP). This suggests that many of the issues we identified are present across the state, and that the solutions we identified, and are implementing, may serve as models moving forward.
• The BRC recommends that the state expand access to full-day preschool and ECE for all 3 and 4-year olds, increase access for infants and toddlers to ECE, and encourage family friendly workplaces including paid sick leave. The ELMP Access goals include increasing access to state preschool programs, infant-toddler care and paid family leave.
• The BRC encourages building partnerships between school districts and our mixed delivery system and identifying valid diagnostic and summative assessments that predict children’s later skills. The ELMP Articulation, Alignment and Data Systems goals include expanding School – Provider Networks and promoting the use of validated school readiness assessments.
• The BRC calls for mapping of state facilities’ needs, establishing a targeted facilities grant program, simplifying state and local processes to build and expand facilities – including zoning, building codes licensing and permit processes, providing technical assistance on facility planning, development and financing, and developing a facility quality assessment. The ELMP Facilities goals include creating a county-wide facilities development plan, advocating for sustainable sources of funding for ECE facilities, engaging cities as partners in facilities development, offering facilities training and technical assistance, and enhancing licensing to improve the quality of facilities.
• The BRC emphasizes family engagement in joint decision-making and recommends formal state and local structures to include parent voice in policy making and program improvement. The ELMP Family Engagement goals include creating and sustaining a joint schools – ECE family engagement collaborative.
• The BRC recommends building on work by Quality Counts California (QCC) and the QCC state consortia to grow and revise the current quality improvement and standards systems. The ELMP Program Quality goals include expanding participation in QUALITY MATTERS … a Strong Start for Kids, Santa Clara County’s ECE quality rating and improvement system.
• The BRC advocates for salary parity with K-3rd grade for those with comparable education and experience with competitive benefit packages. The ELMP Workforce Development goals include advocating for worthy wages for ECE professionals.
Just as with our county’s ELMP, the most difficult and important steps for the BRC’s recommendations lie in their implementation. A number of these recommendations are very similar to either recently introduced bills or to items in the Governor’s January Budget Proposal, suggesting that this may already have started. Currently, the state’s executive, legislative and financial climate are receptive to making improvements to our ECE system. This strategic plan may result in strategic actions.