New Speaker of the California Assembly Aims to Increase Funding for Early Education

Amidst all of the programs that require more funding in California, early education programs seem to have been lost in the shuffle. Now, a newly-elected public official is hoping to draw from his experience in childcare to change that.

According to local radio station 89.3 KPCC, Anthony Rendon, the new speaker of the California Assembly, was in charge of several preschools that served low-income children in LA before he decided to run for office.

During his time in childcare management, Rendon watched the state cut approximately $1.3 billion from its early education budget. From 2008 to 2012, the rate that preschools received from the state per child dropped from $31 to just $17.

Since his speakership began earlier this month, Rendon has already made it clear that he will urge state officials to reconsider the budget cuts that have crippled early education in California. “I’ve been hearing from them quite a bit,” the new speaker told KPCC.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been under fire recently for failing to increase funding for early education throughout the state. In January, Gov. Brown proposed a budget plan that included no new funding for preschools.

Celia Ayala, CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), believes that Rendon is the perfect person to change the governor’s mind on this key issue.

“I believe he recognizes [the problem] and is ready to have a conversation with the governor,” Ayala said.

Rendon is no stranger to battling for early education funding. Before his political career, he directed preschool programs for the Mexican American Opportunity Fund and Plaza de la Raza.

Both of these preschools are non-profit organizations that serve a large percentage of California’s children whose families cannot afford the high costs of childcare. The average family spends 7.8% of their monthly income on childcare, and many of the state’s children would be unable to attend preschool without these non-profit organizations.

The lack of funding that goes directly to preschools is particularly confusing because of other programs that have been created by the state in the past several years. As EdSource reported, California received two grants worth $75 million in 2013 that allowed the state to build a rating system for its childcare centers and preschools.

Therefore, advocates like Rendon and Ayala are wondering how none of this funding has been used to enhance the preschools instead of rating their current quality. Gov. Brown did say that he would increase funding for early education by $95 million after the criticism he received from his latest budget proposal, but this still only represents a 3% total increase.

Rendon has endorsed an $800 million proposal from the California Women’s Legislative Caucus that would “repair the infrastructure of a state-supported childcare system,” but he believes this still may not be enough.

“Even if we were to accept the women’s caucus proposal, it would be a lot and would come close to restoring us to where we were before,” Rendon said. “But given that we have more children than before, it still doesn’t meet the need.”

With the new term limits in California, Rendon could hold his position until 2024. This should give him plenty of time to reestablish California as a state that truly cares about enhancing its early education programs.

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