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California Looking To Add More Affordable Preschool Options For Families

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - The California legislature will debate three Assembly bills in the upcoming session that would open up preschool options for thousands of California families.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty introduced AB 123, AB 124 and AB 125 on Monday.

AB 123 deals with Pre-K for All. It would expand the California State Preschool Program to include 4-year-old children who live in school attendance areas where 70% or more of the children are enrolled in free or reduced-lunch programs. The bill also aims to offer preschool classes for 3-year-old children who live in poverty.

Currently, the state offers free Pre-K to approximately 175,000 low- and middle-income families.

In order to deal with the additional students who'd be attending preschool, Asm. McCarty introduced AB 124 to build new classrooms. The bill asks to place a $500 million bond on the 2020 ballot to pay for acquiring, building, or retrofitting classrooms.

AB 125 would increase rates to adequately compensate teachers and providers, along with offering financial incentives for ongoing professional development and for those achieving higher quality standards of care.

Assemblymember McCarty cited a September report "getting Down to Facts II" which stated, "California's children are behind before they enter Kindergarten. The system needs a continued focus on closing achievement gaps through multiple approaches including enhanced early childhood education."

A similar bill, SB 837, was introduced last session but died in Appropriations. It would have expanded California's transitional Kindergarten program to include all 4-year-old children. Currently only those born between September 2 and December 2 are eligible.

Many cities and counties throughout California are experiencing a child care shortage. In Sacramento there are only enough child care slots for 27% of kids with working parents and the average cost is about $8-13,000 a year, which Council member Eric Guerra says equates to about one year of tuition at Sacramento State University.

In October, the City of Sacramento started addressing the shortage by holding a hearing with state and county leaders to come up with some solutions.

Births have actually declined nationwide since 2014, and 2017 saw the fewest babies born in the United States in the past 30 years. 3.83 million babies were born in 2017.

In California, the birth rate dropped even more. The fewest number of babies were born in 2017 in 100 years. A total of 471,552 babies were born in California last year.

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