Early Care and Education in the Golden State

Publicly Funded Programs Serving California's Preschool-Age Children

by Lynn A. Karoly, Elaine Reardon, Michelle Cho

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To evaluate the adequacy and efficiency of preschool education, the RAND Corporation has undertaken the California Preschool Study to improve understanding of achievement gaps in the early elementary grades, the adequacy of preschool education currently given, and what efficiencies or additional resources might be brought to bear in early care and education (ECE). This volume provides a comprehensive assessment of publicly funded ECE programs for preschool-age children — for California as a whole, and for four case-study counties: Los Angles, Merced, San Diego, and San Mateo. California’s system of publicly subsidized ECE programs for preschool-age children has evolved over time into a complex array of mostly targeted programs supported through multiple funding streams. The authors find that there is a sizeable gap between the number of three- and four-year-old children eligible for such programs and the number that can be served given current program funding. In addition, the quality of ECE programs for preschool-age children is uncertain, and the sometimes low standards are compounded by a reimbursement structure for subsidized care that gives little incentive for providing higher quality programs. Finally, potential inefficiencies in the system may limit the benefits from the dollars spent.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Overview of California’s System of Publicly Funded Early Care and Education Programs

  • Chapter Three

    Eligibility and Enrollment

  • Chapter Four

    Requirements for Publicly Funded Early Care and Education Programs

  • Chapter Five

    Program Funding, Reimbursement Rates, and Expenditures

  • Chapter Six

    The ECE System at a Local Level: Four County Case Studies

  • Chapter Seven


  • Appendix A

    Additional Analyses of Enrollment Patterns

  • Appendix B

    Los Angeles County Case Study

  • Appendix C

    Merced County Case Study

  • Appendix D

    San Diego County Case Study

  • Appendix E

    San Mateo County Case Study

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Labor and Population. Funding was provided by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts through the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), The W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation, and Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP).

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