Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoes Bill to Set Timetable for Preschool State Subsidies

Jerry Brown (AP)
Associated Press

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Friday that would have set a timetable for providing state subsidies for all low-income four-year-olds.

Amid the objections of preschool child advocates, Brown asserted that Assembly Bill 47 – introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D) – “sets an arbitrary deadline, contingent on a sufficient appropriation” and was “unnecessary.”

Brown said in a veto message:

The bill would require state preschool programs to be available to all children, who are not already in transitional kindergarten and are eligible for subsidies, by June 30, 2018, contingent on a sufficient appropriation.

Last year’s education omnibus trailer bill [SB 858] already codified the intent to make preschool and other full-day, full year early education and care opportunities available to all low-income children. The discussion on expanding state preschool – which takes into account rates paid to providers as well as access and availability for families – should be considered in the budget process, as it is every year. A bill that sets an arbitrary deadline, contingent on a sufficient appropriation, is unnecessary.

Pre-school advocates, however, are apparently unwilling to trust the “intent” to appropriate for all low-income preschoolers, and are concerned their cause will not be funded when it is considered among all other state budgetary items.

Deborah Kong, president of Early Edge, said Brown’s veto was a “missed opportunity.”

“We’re glad to see that the governor recognizes the promise made last year and look forward to engaging with his administration in the coming budget process,” Kong said in a statement to EdSource. “There remains a significant unmet need for preschool in California, with tens of thousands of low-income children who do not have access to preschool. To them and their families, this is very necessary.”

McCarty also expressed dismay in Brown’s veto.

“I’m disappointed in the Governor’s veto of AB 47, the Preschool for All Act of 2015,” he said in a statement. “Quality early childhood education has been proven to help close the achievement gap, fight poverty, and prevent kids from entering the juvenile justice system.”

In a statement on the Early Edge website, Moira Kenney, executive director of the First 5 Association of California wrote:

Even though more than 60% of California’s Latino four-year-olds and half of African-American four-year-olds are not enrolled in preschool, Governor Brown says we can continue on modest, incremental efforts rather than clear and decisive planning. We stand with Assemblymember [sic] Kevin McCarty, and AB 47 co-authors Assembly Members Bonta, Chávez, Eduardo Garcia, and Rendon, declaring that children’s futures deserve more.

From President Obama, to a majority of Republican and Democratic members of the State Legislature, to business leaders, neuroscientists, teachers, parents and advocates — everyone agrees that high quality universal preschool matters.

“Everyone,” however, does not agree on the necessity of universal preschool.

As Lindsey Burke wrote at The Daily Signal in 2013, Oklahoma and Georgia both implemented universal preschool programs in the 1990s, and both states saw no clear benefits.

“Fourth-grade reading achievement scores in Oklahoma have actually declined, while Georgia’s program was in place for 13 years before scores caught up with the U.S. average,” Burke wrote, citing the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores. “While NAEP outcomes are influenced by many factors, if universal preschool yielded the kinds of meaningful, long-term benefits promised by supporters, it would likely be evident in NAEP fourth-grade reading scores.”


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