Bright Spots Celebration

Recognizing policy wins and leading school districts

We were proud to join Bright Futures to celebrate the successes in achieving measurable results for our community! The event provided real, local examples of positive impact, reminding us that change is possible, and renewing our energy for the year ahead. Be sure to read the Monterey Herald article, “Education Leaders Celebrate ‘Bright Spots‘” by clicking here.

At the celebration, Shannan Watkins and I highlighted two of the many “Brights Spots” in the early childhood field. The first was a major policy win: the passage of California Assembly Bill (AB 300) — a state policy change that was championed by Monterey County leaders.

The policy will significantly expand access to more affordable early care for families in the county.  Currently, there are approximately 1,792 children waiting for a spot in a subsidized early care program. AB 300 will provide flexibility to allow up to 193 more children to access care, which would be a reduction in the wait-list by 10.8 percent!

The second Bright Spot recognized school districts, school boards, and teachers who are supporting our youngest learners by expanding access to transitional kindergarten (TK) — a new grade level available to four year-olds since 2012. Many schools have made policy and classroom-level changes to reach as many children as possible with top quality, age-appropriate experiences.

From 2013 to 2016, there was a 42 percent increase in enrollment, with Carmel Unified, Monterey Peninsula Unified, and Santa Rita Union Elementary school districts increasing enrollment by 90 percent or more. Many other districts are also achieving impressive results by expanding the eligibility window, providing transport and before/after care, training teachers in play-based approaches best fitting four year olds’ learning styles, and providing holistic services to support children and families. To mention a few: King City, North Monterey County, and Greenfield have shown impressive results.

This spring, Bright Beginnings will be convening education leaders and local action teams to analyze these data and further explore the role of T-K in expanding access to quality early care and education.

Even while we celebrate these wins, we are reminded that we still have a lot of work to do. Only about half of our children have access to licensed child care and less than a quarter are socially-emotionally ready for Kindergarten. We simply must do better.

By coordinating efforts, aligning programs, expanding effective strategies, and changing systems, we will improve those numbers and make lasting change, not just for some — but for ALL children.