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California Dems Not-So-Universal Preschool Plan

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg unveiled a modified version of his plan to offer free preschool to California 4-year-olds on Thursday, slashing the cost of the program to the state by more than two-thirds by focusing on children from the poorest families.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg unveiled a modified version of his plan to offer free preschool to California 4-year-olds on Thursday, slashing the cost of the program to the state by more than two-thirds by focusing on children from the poorest families.

 

Steinberg’s earlier plan would have provided preschool to all 4-year-olds regardless of family income and cost the state about $1.5 billion once fully rolled out. But Gov. Jerry Brown showed no interest in expanding state spending that much and left Steinberg’s plan out of his budget proposals.

 

The Sacramento Democrat said his scaled-back plan would cost an additional $378 million. It would offer preschool to 4-year-olds whose families qualify for free and reduced lunch – about 234,000 children, Steinberg said.

 

“Every low-income child in California would have access to full-day, full-year quality preschool if (at least) one parent works,” Steinberg said during a budget subcommittee hearing Thursday.

 

Children whose parents are poor but don’t work would get a half-day of preschool under the plan, Steinberg said.

 

“Too many kids – especially low-income kids – are starting school far behind. And it’s not right,” Steinberg said. “This is an opportunity to do something assertive about it.”

 

Brown’s Department of Finance spokesman, H.D. Palmer, pointed to a Standard & Poor’s report issued Thursday that praised Brown’s May budget revision and warned the Legislature against spending more than the governor suggested.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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