As the dust settled from Tuesday’s election, we continue to look ahead at how our new leaders might govern. Gavin Newsom, California’s Governor-elect, will be the first governor in the Golden State who is raising small children while in office.
The Mercury News published a piece from Calmatters focusing on Newsom’s top priority areas, and here are a few glimpses regarding education:
“Newsom also has spoken adamantly about public investment in children younger than age 3 as an antidote to closing the chronic gap in achievement between disadvantaged and wealthier students.
“People talk and write a lot about people being left behind. I think people start behind,” Newsom told CALmatters before the election. “I think the biggest mistake we’ve made is that we’re triaging the problem. We’re not addressing the root cause.”
Newsom’s emphasis on early childhood reflects the consensus of California education scholars, and echoes a longstanding priority of legislative leaders. The question is: How will he fund his ambitious goals?
Besides preschool and childcare, Newsom has said he wants to create college savings accounts for the state’s incoming kindergarten students, focus on adolescent mental health and arts programs, and invest in data infrastructure that tracks student learning outcomes though college.
Universal preschool and childcare in California would alone cost the state up to $8 billion. It’s unclear how a meaningful agenda of that size could be done without a tax increase. That’s what it took when then-Mayor Newsom successfully pushed a much more modest “Preschool for All” initiative in San Francisco.
The Legislature in recent years has also pushed a voluntary universal preschool program, as well as a requirement that schools report how they spent money targeted for needy kids; Brown resisted spending on new programs that incurred ongoing costs and preferred to give local school districts more decision-making authority.
Newsom has not yet detailed how initiatives that stalled under Brown would be financed on his watch. In fact, he has vowed to sustain Brown’s financial restraint and sought to manage expectations.”
Universal preschool would be so beneficial in our state. Research shows that children who attend preschool are better prepared for kindergarten and that children from disadvantaged backgrounds often gain the most from preschool. Preschool prepares small children for a life of learning and helps them get established into a routine. For Governor-elect Newsom and the legislature, the question of whether this policy idea can become reality will hinge on funding. It’s being projected that the economy will start to slow down, which will impact tax revenues. Therefore, education funding and the willingness of the public to look for money (who to tax) will be something that all education advocates should pay close attention to.
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