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Knowledge From the Field

Preschool Adequacy and Efficiency in California: Issues, Policy Options, and Recommendations

Published: May 2009

Publisher(s): RAND Corporation

Author(s): Karoly, Lynn A.

Funder(s): David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Los Angeles Universal Preschool, Pew Charitable Trusts, W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

View Report (197 pages; 778KB; PDF)

Area of focus: Early Learning


This report profiles studies from a broader research effort called the California Preschool Study.  It highlights the evidence of shortfalls in both preschool adequacy and efficiency, reviews design options for a preschool system and considers the merits of alternative approaches, and finally, offers specific policy recommendations.  

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

+ The policy recommendations do not require a significant infusion of new resources for implementation and offer a strategic approach for California to institute incremental reforms to the current system of publicly funded early learning programs.

= The process of eligibility determination should be modified to ensure that children who can benefit most are served first and that there is stability in enrollment within a program year and across program years for those who start at age three.

- California’s system of publicly funded early learning programs targeted to lower-income children is underfunded.  At current funding levels, the system is able to serve only about half of eligible three- and four year-olds.

- Preschool providers have no financial incentive to achieve higher quality given the current reimbursement structure.

- Children with the largest gaps in school readiness and achievement are the least likely to participate in any preschool and the least likely to attend high-quality programs.

- The complexity of the current system of publicly subsidized early learning programs makes it costly for providers to administer, challenging for families to navigate, and difficult for policymakers and the public to understand, evaluate, and improve.

Geographic Focus: California

Subjects/Keywords: Early learning, early childhood education, ECE programs, preschool

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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