Common Sense Kids Action’s Right Start Commission Releases Groundbreaking Report -- Recommends Universal Access to High-Quality Early Learning and Care Programs for Children 0–5 Years Old

Bold Approach to Early Childhood is First to Provide a Comprehensive Review of the State of Early Childhood in California and Would Restructure State’s Current Scattered Services Into One Integrated System
Common Sense Media
Common Sense Kids Action
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sacramento, CA – As California policymakers continue to debate the future of early childhood in California, the Right Start Commission -- a team of business, education, health and early childhood experts convened by Common Sense Kids Action -- released a groundbreaking report today detailing gaps in California’s early childhood services, including recommendations to improve delivery and provide more resources to create a “child-centered” and streamlined system of early learning and care programs and services for children ages 0-5.

The commission convened by Common Sense Kids Action includes:

Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Salesforce.com
Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, PolicyLink
Richard Carranza, Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District
Linda Darling Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University
Ivelisse Estrada, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations & Community Empowerment, Univision Communications
George Halvorson, Chair and CEO for the Institute of InterGroup Understanding; Former Chairman & CEO, Kaiser Permanente
Co-Chair Nadine Burke Harris, Founder and CEO, Center for Youth Wellness
Lisa Jackson, Vice President, Environmental Initiatives, Apple
Honorable George Miller, Member of Congress (Retired)
Elizabeth Simons, President, Heising-Simons Foundation
Co-Chair Honorable Darrell Steinberg, California State Senate President pro Tempore (Retired)
Jim Steyer, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Common Sense

Over the last 11 months, Commissioners and staff participated in meetings, interviews and field conversations with concerned parents and providers. Through this process, the Commission and staff developed a set of recommendations to foster a child-centered approach focused on prevention and nurturing a child’s learning and health from the beginning of life, which will be better for the child and ultimately cheaper for society.

In acknowledgement of the need for significant new investments, and in the wake of the recent Legislative Analyst’s Office report that recommended full-day preschool for all low income working families, the Right Start Commission report’s key recommendations include:

  • Commit to universal access to high-quality early learning and care programs for children 0-5 years old by 2021
  • Create a one-stop shop online portal that provides parents with easy access to available early childhood services
  • Consolidate the state’s early learning and care programs to simplify access and delivery of services
  • Add adverse childhood experience (ACE) screenings as part of bolstering efforts to ensure all children receive appropriate behavioral, developmental, and mental health screenings
  • Increase public awareness of, and expand evidence-based support programs that provide information to families about, the consequences of toxic stress and the importance of brain development.
  • Build a more responsive business community that provides a family-friendly workplace environment through policies that include child care assistance, reliable schedules, and paid family leave, among others.

With more than 90% of a child’s brain developed by age five, early childhood health and learning is a key determinant of a young person’s future success, which makes the Right Start Commission’s findings around California’s gaps in early childhood services particularly concerning for the state’s future.

“The fact is, we are failing our children, our parents and our state with an insufficient and often confusing system for delivering early childhood services,” said Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer. “We know that investing in our kids is a smart choice, and the time to invest is now. By taking action on the Right Start Commission’s recommendations, we can begin moving California, and the country, toward an integrated, child-centered services system that is affordable, available and high-quality.”

The report’s recommendations represent a bolder approach than the plans that the Governor and Legislature are proposing in current budget talks. Steyer added, “The Administration’s proposed three percent increase in funding for preschool and child care programs over 2015-2016 is a step in the right direction, but we all know that greater investments are needed. Striving for pre-Great Recession funding levels is woefully inadequate if we are going to reach our shared goal of ensuring every child has access to affordable, quality early childhood programs and services.”

Speaker Anthony Rendon, who is also a former educator, added, “Getting children on the right path in life includes providing early learning opportunities and nurturing child care, but also involves the role of health, family and community involvement in their everyday lives. The Right Start Commission’s recommendations help us focus on a comprehensive look at the needs, programs and services for children ages 0-5 that directly impact positive outcomes later in life.”

The report highlights that at least one million children in California receive neither professional child care nor care with an available parent, and are therefore cared for in unlicensed settings of unknown quality, where quality is difficult to measure. Additionally, California’s system of providing services for those in need is fragmented and difficult to navigate: 18 different public programs exist for children from birth to age five, administered by 11 different government departments. Some of these programs have conflicting eligibility, and no single source of comprehensive information regarding the full set of programs exists. This maze of programs makes it especially difficult for hard-working low and middle income families – over 70% of the 1.1 million eligible kids from families that earn less than $42,000 can’t access subsidized child care.

"Technology can, and should, simplify access to the many vital benefits and services available to improve the lives of Americans," said Bernie McKay, Chief Public Policy Officer at Intuit. "As the Right Start Commission report highlights, there are at least 18 public programs for children ages 0-5 that are administered by no fewer than 11 government departments, and there is no central place where people can simply log on and determine what is available and what they are eligible for. This is precisely how technology can be put to work in a way that makes communities stronger. The Right Start Commission’s recommendation for an online early childhood services portal is something that has tremendous promise, and leverages the power of innovation and technology."

The issue of early childhood support is of major importance to Californians. A recent poll conducted by Common Sense Kids Action found 74% of California voters are concerned that the cost of quality pre-school or daycare is far out of reach for low income parents. 74% of voters also believe that all families should have access to affordable pre-school and childcare based on a sliding payment scale according to their income, including overwhelming numbers of both Democrats (85%) and Independents (80%) as well as a majority of Republicans (56%). 

For the full list of recommendations, go to: rightstartcommission.org.   

As part of its commitment to the Right Start Commission’s recommendations, Common Sense Kids Action is in the early stages of exploring the most effective platform to host the one-stop online portal that will help parents and caregivers identify and sign-up for available early childhood services. Discussions with industry leaders and policymakers have begun with a goal of expanding awareness and simplifying access to programs. Common Sense Kids Action is committed to addressing the issue of early childhood well-being in California and nationwide, and will continue to pursue opportunities to make kids America’s top priority.

Common Sense Kids Action’s grassroots advocacy campaign will begin organizing around the Right Start Commission recommendations in the coming weeks.  For more information visit: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/kids-action/our-initiatives/ca-kids-campaign

About Common Sense
Common Sense is the nation's leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a powerful voice for kids and families in the 21st century. Millions of families, educators, and policymakers turn to Common Sense every day to access our independent rating systems, unbiased research, and trusted tools and advice that help them navigate a rapidly changing digital landscape at home and at school. Learn more at commonsensemedia.org.

Press Contact:
Lisa Cohen
[email protected]
(310) 395-2544

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REACTIONS FROM AROUND THE STATE

Speaker Anthony Rendon:
“Getting children on the right path in life includes providing early learning opportunities and nurturing child care, but also involves the role of health, family and community involvement in their everyday lives. The Right Start Commission’s recommendations help us focus on a comprehensive look at the needs, programs and services for children ages 0-5 that directly impact positive outcomes later in life.”

Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins
California’s future success depends largely on how we prepare and support our children in the early years of their lives. Too many of California’s children live in poverty, and we must intervene when our intervention will have the greatest impact – when our kids are infants and toddlers. Doing so will help alleviate the difficult stresses that poverty places on families and young children. With this report, the Right Start Commission focuses our attention on the task at hand and provides a strong roadmap to guide us.”

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago
“As a father of a two-year old, I understand how important it is for every child to have access to high-quality early learning and care programs, supportive family environments, and preventative healthcare. The recommendations offered by the Right Start Commission Report help foster a child-centered approach focused on developing a child’s learning and health. This will guarantee every child has an opportunity to succeed in school and life.” 

Deborah Kong, President of Early Edge California
“Home to more young children than any other state, and known for its innovative spirit, California should be leading the way to provide children with high-quality early learning and health services,” said Deborah Kong, president of Early Edge California. “The Right Start Commission report is a recognition from the state’s foremost tech, community, and policy voices that supporting children from birth to age 5 lays the groundwork for a brighter future—and should encourage policymakers to make early childhood investments a top priority.”

Bernie McKay, Chief Public Policy Officer at Intuit
"Technology can, and should, simplify access to the many vital benefits and services available to improve the lives of Americans," said Bernie McKay, Chief Public Policy Officer at Intuit. "As the Right Start Commission report highlights, there are at least 18 public programs for children ages 0-5 that are administered by no fewer than 11 government departments, and there is no central place where people can simply log on and determine what is available and what they are eligible for. This is precisely how technology can be put to work in a way that makes communities stronger. The Right Start Commission’s recommendation for an online early childhood services portal is something that has tremendous promise, and leverages the power of innovation and technology."

Commission Co-Chair, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Founder and CEO, Center for Youth Wellness
Commission Co-Chair, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Founder and CEO, Center for Youth Wellness stated: “The report includes a comprehensive look at the whole child, including the role of adversity and toxic stress on brain development that effects health, learning and future outcomes for our children.”

Moira Kenney, First 5 Association of California Executive Director
“We are delighted to see the Right Start Commission advance a bold vision for a public-private partnership for early childhood.  With so many of our priorities reflected in the new report, First 5 stands ready to work in solidarity with the Commission to champion quality early learning, preventative health care, and family resilience across California.”

David Rattray, Executive Vice President Education & Workforce Development, LA Chamber of Commerce
“The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is please to support the Commission’s findings. Ensuring that employees have access to high-quality child care reduces stress in their personal lives, ensures they’re fully engaged at work, and boosts overall productivity. We look forward to collaborating with the business community to support them integrate these findings.” -