Advancement Project believes that our research findings make a clear case for investment to improve outcomes for L.A. County’s youngest residents. We call for elected officials to champion investment in, and prudent policy change regarding, the ECE needs of children, particularly children in low-income and high-need communities, and especially infants and toddlers.
Making the Case for Early Learning
“It’s astonishing how the gaps in early care and education (ECE) caused by the Great Recession have not closed in the midst of California’s economic recovery,” said Executive Director John Kim as he opened the convening, Early Learning Needs in L.A. County: How to Support Our Next Generation – #LANeedsECE. He went on, “ECE must be the highest priority for policymakers because of its importance in the future success of our children.”
Our Educational Equity program hosted an impressive mix of more than 80 L.A. County elected officials and their staffmembers, ECE advocates, and parents from L.A.’s Southeast Cities. The goal was to develop a shared agenda for ensuring that our youngest learners and their families have access to affordable and quality child-care and preschool. The persistent gaps in quality ECE programs for low-income families of color has been detailed in a comprehensive set of research and maps by legislative, County Supervisors, and LAUSD districts created by Advancement Project in partnership with First 5 LA.
Speakers included a diverse mix of stakeholders who shared their ideas for prioritizing ECE: LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer and Boardmember Mónica García; First 5 LA; three parent leaders who have participated in intensive advocacy training; Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia, Chris Holden, and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas; and State Senator Connie Leyva.
We especially want to thank the large contingent of devoted parent leaders who came to represent the needs of the children and families in Southeast L.A..
Speaker Salvador Diaz summed it up best: “The education of our kids has been forgotten. We can no longer be marginalized. No more talk; we need action!”
The research points to some obvious choices for policymakers to make with regard to access, quality, and affordability of ECE when formulating legislation and determining budget priorities.
Access: Increased investment in ECE seats and beneficial policy change to support access is needed in order to begin to fill the access gaps experienced by infants and toddlers, children in high-need communities, and preschoolers.
Quality: In order to ensure that our youngest children are served by the highest-quality early learning programs possible, increased investment in quality services, supports, and improvement efforts is needed. To understand what quality looks like in early learning programs in Los Angeles County, and to improve quality where it is needed, expansion of QRIS efforts is necessary.
Affordability: Research has shown that there is a need to increase the affordability of high-quality ECE programs. This will allow more providers to consistently provide higher-quality services, and more families to access those services. Providers struggle financially – specifically to afford higher-quality initiatives – because of insufficient reimbursement rates and lack of other supports. In addition to providers, low-income families need increased support and subsidies to afford high-quality care for their children.
Steps toward a Brighter Future
While the research identifies significant challenges in the ECE landscape in L.A. County, it does provide clarity about the extent of the gaps and points the way toward policy shifts that can address those needs. To improve our common future, it is imperative that L.A. County legislators become active participants in improving ECE for our youngest learners.
For more information, contact Karla Pleitez Howell, (213) 989-1300.