- California needs one state-level governing body to coordinate early-childhood programs and create a more comprehensive approach to early learning, according to a new report from the Learning Policy Institute.
- The report notes that because child care, preschool, Head Start and other programs are administered by multiple state agencies, the system is “daunting” for both parents and those providing services. “Efforts to link eligible parents to services are often uncoordinated and sometimes fail to match parents to care that meets their needs,” the authors write.
- The authors highlight San Mateo and San Luis Obispo counties as examples of how to coordinate programs through a single entity, and suggest that creating a “one-stop shop” with an online portal where families can find programs with available slots should be a long-term goal for the state.
The fact that programs for children under 5 years old are financed through a variety of funding streams is one reason why early childhood is often described as a “patchwork” or a “non-system.” Child-care subsidies for low-income families, for example, have sometimes been administered by state welfare or workforce agencies, while preschool initiatives are often within education departments.
Several other states, however, have succeeded in creating separate state agencies that oversee all early-childhood programs. Washington’s Department of Early Learning was among the first. Georgia’s Department of Early Learning is another example. These departments not only make it easier for families, providers and school district leaders to find answers to their questions, but can also present a more unified voice on legislation and state budgets.
According to the Build Initiative, a nonprofit organization that works with states to create early-childhood systems, “An effective model of governance should create coherence among policies and services, but current systems of early childhood governance typically are fragmented.” The group add that there is no one governance model that works for every state.
When programs are administered by state education agencies, for example, the needs of infants and toddlers are sometimes overlooked. An advantage of that model, however, is that collaboration between early-childhood and K-12 might be easier.
School and district leaders are often asked to participate on state or local early-childhood councils. Understanding how the range of programs are administered can help them better identify gaps and advocate for changes that would improve services for families in their community.