Published Online: June 16, 2004
Published in Print: June 16, 2004, as Early Childhood

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California Pre-K

Actor and director Rob Reiner and the California Teachers Association have withdrawn a statewide tax initiative from the November ballot that would have earmarked some of the revenue for "universal" prekindergarten.

Huge opposition from the business community, as well as from within the ranks of early-childhood education itself, led Mr. Reiner and the CTA to take the action.

But the end of that campaign hasn’t stopped the moviemaker from pushing his pre-K agenda at the county level. Mr. Reiner helped kick off two new preschool initiatives in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties earlier this month.

"Preschool helps children develop better social and emotional skills," Mr. Reiner said in a press release. "Studies consistently show it also helps them perform better for the rest of their lives."

Money to help pay for the programs is coming from the Proposition 10 tobacco tax, sponsored by Mr. Reiner, that California voters approved in 1998. In addition to the statewide First 5—or Children and Families Commission—that Mr. Reiner chairs, each of California’s 58 counties has a local commission that oversees and appropriates local Proposition 10 revenues.

Over the next 10 years, the San Francisco First 5 commission plans to spend $155 million to implement prekindergarten.

Santa Clara County’s commission is dedicating $50 million over the next five years to phase in pre-K.

Similar efforts are also at various stages in several other counties, including San Mateo, Merced, and Sacramento.

The state commission’s "Preschool for All" effort is supporting the growth of local pre-K programs with planning grants in 12 counties.

Mr. Reiner first urged the Los Angeles First 5 commission in 2002 to use a portion of its money to pay for preschool programs.

Last year, the commission voted to spend $600 million over 10 years to bring free preschool to every 4-year-old in the county, about 153,000 boys and girls, regardless of family income. Now, the commission is deciding which communities have the greatest need for preschool facilities.

"L.A. offered us a good model to follow," said Moira Kenney, the executive director of the San Francisco First 5 panel.

Universal preschool programs aim to serve all 4-year-olds or all 3- and 4-year-olds in a given area, but often help the neediest children first.

Linda Jacobson

Vol. 23, Issue 40, Page 23

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