California is leading the way in expanding Universal Prekindergarten for all preschool-aged children.
Governor Newsom’s administration developed a Master Plan to promote school readiness through PreK for all three-year-old children experiencing poverty and universally for all four-year-old children. The program has been implemented gradually since 2021 and will continue to do so until it includes all the state’s 4-year-olds by the 2025-26 school year.
“Universal Prekindergarten” is a state government-funded preschool program (meaning it is free) that ensures that any family who wants to enroll their child in pre-kindergarten has the opportunity to do so.
There are two main reasons why our society would greatly benefit from Universal Pre-K.
First, studies show that young children who experience early care and education programs do better in school and are more likely to graduate from college. This program could be life-changing for children from low-income families, whose parents work long hours, do not understand the educational system or do not speak English.
Secondly, family economics. Early care and education have become either an unmanageable expense or practically unavailable for many families who need or want it. This lack of high-quality offerings can keep parents from pursuing the additional education or job training that could build their incomes, and it often means one parent opts out of the workforce entirely to provide care, even when both parents need or want to work. (Earlysuccess.org)
As part of its work to implement Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK), California has established a workgroup to provide recommendations on increasing access and improving quality. This workgroup is an opportunity for families to share their experiences and aspirations so that their voices contribute to improvements in high quality UPK.
To support this effort, PIQE conducted three focus groups (Latino Spanish-speaking community, Mixtec immigrant community and Black/African American English-speaking community) with parents with children in early education school age. They were conducted in February 2023; forty participants shared their perspectives on the early education for their 3–5-year-old children. Here is some of the things they had to say:
The three communities were asked to reflect on their hopes and dreams for their children’s education and their vision for their future.