School & District Management

What the Silicon Valley Preschool Gap Says About Schools in Communities

By Sarah D. Sparks — February 09, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Guest post by Lillian Mongeau, cross-posted from Early Years.

While 64 percent of children from non-low-income families attend preschool in Silicon Valley, only 48 percent of 4-year-olds from low-income families do, according to two reports released in January by the Urban Institute, a think tank.

The gap in preschool attendance is even larger for 3-year-olds. Forty-two percent of children from families earning more than 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline ($48,500 annually for a family of four) attend preschool in the two California counties that make up Silicon Valley, while only 24 percent of 3-year-olds from low-income families there attend preschool. The report found that children from low-income immigrant families were the least likely to attend. Only 45 percent of 4-year-olds and 19 percent of 3-year-olds whose parents are low-income immigrants attend preschool.

Among the seven main reasons the report found for the discrepancy, the first is the unusually high cost of living in Silicon Valley. MIT’s Living Wage Calculator found that a family of four needed to earn annual pay of $63,044 and $58,864 in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, respectively, in order to stay off government services. Housing costs alone are more than four time the national average, according to the Urban Institute report.

Researchers found that large numbers of low-income families had left the two counties, leaving some social services programs, including preschools, devoid of clients. Interestingly, many families who make too much to qualify for free or subsidized care often still can’t afford licensed private care. Qualifications for free and subsidized care are set based on national and state averages that do not apply to the cost of living in Silicon Valley.

Compounding the issue is the cost of transportation in these sprawling suburban communities, which have little public transportation beyond a basic bus system. And directly related to that is the problem of finding child-care centers with hours that line up with parents’ work schedules.

Lack of parental knowledge and the overwhelming paperwork involved in determining eligibility for free or subsidized care were also cited as barriers to preschool participation, especially for the children of low-income immigrants.

Finally, the report cites the underfunding of the two primary programs providing preschool for children from low-income families: Head Start and California State Preschool. Neither has sufficient capacity to serve all eligible children in the state.

Read both reports for more information and several suggested strategies for addressing the many barriers to preschool participation in the world’s hottest technology economy.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion Best Ways for Schools to Prepare for the Next Pandemic
Being better connected to families and the community and diversifying the education workforce are some of the ways to be ready.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educators' Support for COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Is Rising Dramatically
Nearly 60 percent of educators say students who are old enough to receive COVID vaccines should be required to get them to attend school.

4 min read
Mariah Vaughn, a 15-year-old Highland Park student, prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during the vaccine clinic at Topeka High School on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021.
Mariah Vaughn, 15, a student at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kan., prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at her school in August.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week