California has long been a leader in recognizing the value of quality child care and development programs for infants, toddlers, prekindergarteners, and school-age children. For more than 67 years, the California Department of Education (CDE) has developed and funded agencies throughout the state so that families can find safe, healthy, and educationally enriched environments that are staffed by competent, caring adults. Funding is provided for services to low-income families, including welfare recipients, in licensed center-based programs; licensed family child care homes; and license-exempt settings, such as a family’s own home or the home of a relative or neighbor.
Three major trends have focused public attention on the value of children’s preschool education: (1) the unprecedented labor force participation of women with young children, which is creating a pressing demand for child care; (2) an emerging consensus among professionals and, to an even greater extent, among parents, that young children should be provided with educational experiences; and (3) the accumulation of research that shows high quality educational experiences in the preschool years can have a positive effect and long term benefit throughout a child’s education.
In 2008, Assembly Bill 2759 was signed into law, consolidating all the current State Preschool, Prekindergarten Family Literacy, and General Child Care and Development programs serving preschool-aged children into the California State Preschool Program, effective July 1, 2009.This is the largest state-funded preschool program in the nation. It streamlines the administration of state preschool programs and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of program administration.
Senate Bill 1629, also passed in 2008, creating the California Early Learning Quality Improvement System (CAEL QIS) Advisory Committee. The charge of the CAEL QIS Advisory Committee was to develop the policy and implementation plan for an Early Learning Quality Improvement System to improve the quality of early childhood education programs. The Advisory Committee was also charged with developing an early learning rating scale that includes features that most directly contribute to high quality and a funding model aligned with a quality rating scale. You can find information regarding the work of the CAEL QIS Advisory Committee and the Final Report on the CDE Senate Bill 1629 Advisory Committee Web page.
On November 9, 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-23-09 establishing the California State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care (SAC).
The child care and development system administered by the CDE continues to be the largest, most culturally diverse, and most comprehensive system in the nation, with funding at almost $2 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2011-12. The CDE maintains approximately 1,420 service contracts with nearly 770 public and private agencies supporting and providing services to 489,200 children (FY 2009-10). Contractors include school districts, county offices of education, cities, local park and recreation districts, county welfare departments, other public entities, community-based organizations, and private agencies.
The CDE works collaboratively to develop a streamlined and consolidated state plan for early care and education services that meets the needs of California’s families and children. This collaboration includes Head Start and Early Head Start through a federal grant to support the CDE’s California Head Start State Collaboration Office. The CDE also works collaboratively with First Five California to improve the quality and availability of child care and development programs statewide.
Currently, there are a variety of CDE-administered programs that meet the needs of California’s families. The eligibility for federally- and state-subsidized services continues to be based primarily on income and need, with additional criteria depending on program type and funding source. The CDE is committed to maximizing parental choice of care and to improving the availability and quality of infant, preschool, and before- and after-school services. Services to children at risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation and children receiving protective services through county welfare departments remain a top priority. The CDE has also implemented several initiatives to support and assist child care and development programs to create welcoming and inclusive environments for children with exceptional needs.
For more information regarding child care and development programs, please contact the Early Education and Support Division at 916-322-6233. Additional information is available on the CDE Child Development Web page.