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California’s Pre-Kindergarten “Fair-Start” Proposal Gets Budget Green Light

In a multi-year strategy to bridge the achievement gap and expand early-learning opportunities for all low-income children in California, the budget conference committee of the State Senate and Assembly agreed to the "Fair Start" budget proposal on a 7-1 vote this week. The proposal will increase quality in existing programs and make new strategic investments in early childhood education, starting in the 2014-15 budget year at $264 million.

Common Sense Media Founder and CEO Jim Steyer has released a statement in support of "Fair Start," or SB 837, authored by California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

"California's children won a huge victory this week when the Legislature added $264 million for new preschool and other early-childhood development programs for children from needy families in its budget plan.

The new funding, secured through the hard work of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg who made the issue a top priority this year, marks an important new investment in our children. It will allow for 43,000 preschool slots for low-income four-year-olds over the next several years.

As the state's economy continues to recover, it is essential that we make key strategic investments in our children. Studies show that early childhood development programs present one of the best returns on investment for government dollars.

This year's budget reflects the kind of smart investments the state should be making. It will provide access to preschool or transitional kindergarten for about two-thirds of California's children, regardless of income.

Access to preschool can make the difference between a parents being able to work or being forced to stay home to take care of their child. Preschool programs help working families succeed and progress, increasing the odds that they can escape the cycle of poverty that has proven so difficult to break in our state. Under this new proposal, every low-income 4-year-old with a working parent will have full-day pre-K care and more than half of the full universe of 4-year-olds will be reached.

Clearly, there is more work to be done. But we are encouraged that the state is making Common Sense investments in children, ensuring that even those who continue to struggle feel some of the benefits of our economic recovery."

Alexis Vanni