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Poll finds that California voters rank early childhood education spending below other educational priorities

Preschool children in a classroom
Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education

Poll finds that California voters rank early childhood education spending below other educational priorities

Building public support for a greater investment in programs for young children could be challenging for proponents, Stanford researchers report.

Despite strong evidence that high-quality early education programs can have a powerful impact on children’s future success in school and the workforce, Californians rank new investments in early childhood services below other educational priorities, according to a recent poll of 2,000 registered voters across the state.

The poll, conducted by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and the University of Southern California (USC) Rossier School of Education, showed that California voters considered new spending on programs for children age 5 and younger less urgent than improving the quality of K-12 education and making college affordable. 

A new policy brief from PACE, written by Stanford education professors David Plank and Deborah Stipek, outlines the poll’s findings. 

Noting that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019 budget proposal includes several initiatives that will increase support for preschoolers—such as funding full-day, full-year slots in state preschools for all eligible low-income 4-year-olds and expanding subsidized child-care facilities for children from birth to age 3—Plank and Stipek suggest that garnering long-term support for these initiatives will likely require engaging the public more actively on the issue.

“If the governor and the legislature want to expand and improve services for California’s youngest residents, they will have to educate the public on the benefits of early childhood education, and build political support for the significantly larger costs to the state,” Plank and Stipek wrote.

PACE also released a new policy brief on preschool quality, examining California policymakers’ proposals for greater funding, access and teacher preparation to improve the quality of preschool programs. The brief shares some of the discussion that took place during PACE’s annual conference in February 2019, where experts on preschool education and policy talked about state proposals, examples of successful reforms and ongoing challenges. 

PACE is a nonpartisan research center led by faculty directors at Stanford University, USC, the University of California at Davis, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Berkeley.

Faculty mentioned in this article: Deborah Stipek

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