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Case for Increased Investment Access & Quality Gaps in L.A. County

The Zip Code of Los Angeles County’s youngest children under 5 frequently predetermines their early education opportunities and lower-income children more often find themselves with few options. Read, download, or print The Case for Increased Investment in L.A. County’s Early Learning System: Improving Access and Quality Gaps for Children Under 5 or the supplement 2016 Policy Priorities & ECE Vision and Meet Our Parent Leaders as PDFs.

L.A. County Home to High-Need Populations of Early Learners under Age 5

There are 150,000 children under five living in poverty in L.A. County. The child population overall is predominantly Latino and more than half of the county’s population over age five speaks a language other than English in the home.

Access to quality ECE is not universal, and is often lowest for low-income families, and families with children of color (Barnett, Carolan, and Johns, 2013).

In June of 2015 Advancement Project released three reports and an interactive website that demonstrates the disparities in access and quality of ECE in L.A. County for children and families in low-income and high-need areas, based on recent data. The reports, explanations about methodology and data limitations, and an interactive mapping tool based on access data may be found at With funding and support from First 5 LA, Advancement Project designed the research, analyzed the data, and produced the reports and website.

The findings of the research made it clear that more ECE seats, and increased ECE quality supports and efforts are needed in L.A. County, particularly for our youngest learners (0-2) in high-need communities.

Access Is Lacking For High-Need Children and Families, Especially Those 0-2

There are hundreds of thousands of children 0-5 in Los Angeles County – especially low-income and bilingual emergent children – who lack ECE opportunities in their home communities. This gap is especially dire for children 0-2; only 2.4% have access to a seat in a licensed ECE center. Gaps are also present for children 2-4, with only 41.3% of preschoolers having access to a licensed ECE center seat.

The shortage of ECE seats is not equally distributed throughout the County, with hot spots of need primarily in low-income communities with more Latino and/or African-American children.

The map below shows the lack of seats in South and Southeast L.A., as well as the Antelope Valley.

Map showing ECE access gaps for 0-5

Quality Rating and Improvement Efforts Are Not Widespread Within the County

A Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) is “a method to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early care and education settings” (Mitchell, 2005) and is used in L.A. County to understand and improve the quality of ECE. L.A. County lacks consistent, countywide QRIS coverage – only 9% of all centers in the County and 2% of all licensed family child care homes had received a rating at the time of data analysis. Additionally, providers serving infants and toddlers have not participated in QRIS efforts in high numbers.

Of the small number of ECE providers that had received a QRIS rating at the time of analysis, just over half (57%) were ranked highly, achieving a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5. ECE providers’ participation in QRIS requires an investment of funds and time that, without additional support, is beyond the reach of many providers. The map below illustrates these findings.

Map showing ECE quality rated seats