With California's economy rebounding and the state budget stabilizing, we now face a critical choice about how to invest in our future. This Wednesday, Assembly Speaker John Pérez demonstrated his commitment to investing wisely when he unveiled the Assembly Democrats' Blueprint for a Responsible Budget that spotlights high-quality early learning as key to strengthening California's middle class.
In doing so, Speaker Pérez declared, "the children of the working poor need access to quality early education and development programs from a very early age, including preschool." He made similar remarks to the Los Angeles Times earlier this week when advocating for spending education dollars on high-quality preschool.
The fact that early education features prominently on the speaker's to-do list is significant and signals a sea change in the conversation about education.
Since the Great Recession began in 2008, early learning in California has suffered severe and disproportionate cuts. Only two percent of the General Fund goes toward preschool and child care, yet these programs represent almost 20 percent of the total budget cuts.
The more than $1 billion in cuts to early learning have translated into more than 110,000 children losing preschool and child care. In Governor Brown's January 2013-14 budget proposal, he proposes restoring funding for many other areas, but not for early learning.
Speaker Pérez joins a growing number of policymakers at the federal, state and local levels who all understand that investing in early education pays dividends down the road. President Obama recently outlined a landmark federal proposal for early childhood education, under which California - home to one in eight of U.S. children - stands to benefit significantly.
Joining Speaker Pérez in support of early learning, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla authored Assembly Joint Resolution 16, which begins the planning process to position California to receive future federal funding for early childhood education as proposed by President Obama.
We must tackle California's "start-behind-stay-behind" crisis by standing with leaders who put California's earliest learners first and advocate for a budget that invests wisely in their future.
Thank you Speaker Pérez for taking a stand and leading California in the right direction!
Follow Catherine Atkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@EarlyEdgeCA