By Elise Gould, Marcy Whitebook, Zane Mokhiber, and Lea J.E. Austin, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, July 23, 2019.
What this report finds: California’s child early care and education (ECE) system is underfunded, and California policymakers have not been willing to acknowledge the true cost of creating a comprehensive ECE system. Proposals for ECE reform have focused primarily on improving access and affordability for families but have ignored the elephant in the room: Early care and education is substantially “funded” through low teacher pay and inadequate supports for ECE teachers. In addition to being a serious injustice, lack of adequate financial and professional supports for ECE teachers compromises the consistency and quality of care children receive.
Why it matters: Before they enter kindergarten, young children need consistent care from teachers who are well prepared and well supported. Working parents need access to dependable, high-quality, affordable child care. And we need to send a message that the work of teaching young children, performed primarily by African American and Hispanic women, is a valuable and respected occupation in California. Early care and education should no longer be financed through low teacher pay.
What can be done about it: Policymakers and other stakeholders have an opportunity to disrupt the status quo and ensure that California’s ECE system has the funding it needs to work effectively for children, families, and teachers. In this report, we develop an estimate of what it would cost to provide high-quality and comprehensive early care and education for California’s families that doesn’t overburden them financially or come at the expense of ECE teachers. The total estimated annual cost of a fully phased-in system ranges from $29.7 to $75.4 billion, or $30,000 to $37,000 per child. The total cost depends largely on the number of children that would participate in such a system.