The Los Angeles Unified School District is considering spending new state money for disadvantaged kids to restore preschools and other early education programs to set them on the right path from the start.
"Studies show that early childhood education is impactful in terms of making sure that children that come from at-risk neighborhoods that are low-income benefit appreciably from having the foundational skills that are imparted in early ed," said Kim Patillo Brownson, a member of L.A. Unified's new ad-hoc early education committee and Director of Educational Equity at the Advancement Project.
"After the fact costs," she added, "are much much higher than dealing with prevention costs."
The money would come from California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, which gives school districts extra money for students who come from low-income families, are still learning English or are in the foster care system. Districts are given freedom on how to spend it - as long as their plans help those populations. More than 80 percent of LA. Unified’s students fall into the state’s category of “disadvantaged.”
L.A. Unified has run the largest early childhood program in the state. It serves nearly 40,000 children aged 0-5. But that's fewer than it used to serve. Beginning in 2008, the state cut over $1 billion in funding to early education programming. Gov. Jerry Brown restored some funding this year - $55 million.
At the first meeting of the district's early education committee last week, Patillo Brownson said members began making a list of priorities in how they would recommend new funds be spent.
It's a long road before those recommendations would become reality.
The district's budget is drawn up by the superintendent and approved by the Board of Education.
And there will be lots of competing priorities for the money. But Patillo Brownson said early childhood education is crucial - and the formation of this new committee signals at least some board members agree.
Preschool is not simply a “nice-to-have, optional, if you have time and the opportunity” kind of thing anymore, she said. “It's something that parents and communities are starting to understand as essential for school success.”