LOS ANGELES — A coalition of political leaders, business executives and academics announced Thursday that they will team up to build a roadmap for improving early education in California.
The Right Start Commission, which includes former U.S. Rep. George Miller and Apple Vice President Lisa Jackson, will work with public and private sector partners to provide the state with “holistic, first-class development” for children from birth to age 5, Miller said.
Early education is widely considered pivotal for preparing children for success in school and helping reduce long-standing achievement gaps.
Those gaps can start early: By age 3, children from privileged families have heard 30 million more words than children from low-income backgrounds, according to a University of Kansas study published in 2003.
Miller, a Democrat who spent decades championing education in Washington, said approaches to early education have been piecemeal, resulting in “huge gaps” in opportunities for physical and cognitive development. He said the commission will examine shortfalls in quality and access and work with state and business leaders on solutions.
“I think California is the right state to start that,” Miller told The Associated Press. “This commission will help provide a roadmap.”
California’s state-funded pre-kindergarten program serves just 18 percent of 4-year-old children and lags on numerous quality indicators, according to a recent study by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The state spent $4,298 per child enrolled in the 2013-14 school year, an amount that has remained largely unchanged over the last decade.
“The Golden State has not made the financial commitment necessary to improve quality or serve all the children who need quality pre-K,” institute director Steve Barnett concluded.
Jim Steyer, CEO of the education group launching the commission, Common Sense Media, said the coalition will present its findings to business, political and education leaders in hopes of moving their recommendations forward.
“Every child deserves a fair start in life, and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” he said.