Financing a Full-Day, Full-Year Preschool Program in California: Strategies and Recommendations

Irene Lam and Susan Muenchow

In California, the demand for full-day, full-year early care and education programs has grown over time due to changing family needs. While research indicates that a half-day of quality preschool is of sufficient duration to have lasting effects on children’s learning and helps close the achievement gap between low-income disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers, disadvantaged children have been shown to benefit even more from extended day, extended year preschool programs.

California has made important efforts to expand access to and improve the quality of preschool services; however, funds for both the Power of Preschool Demonstration Program and the Prekindergarten Learning and Family Literacy Program are limited to part-day programs of school-year duration. The purpose of this policy brief is specifically to address the financing issues involved in providing full-day, full-year preschool programs. Specifically this brief

  • examines the true cost of a high-quality, full-day, full-year program serving preschool-age children;
  • compares the existing reimbursement rates and rate structures for full-day, full-year state-funded programs serving preschool children;
  • considers the impact of changes in duration and quality levels on the cost of a preschool program;
  • illustrates the benefits of leveraging First 5 Power of Preschool demonstration project funds – and potentially other finance sources – to augment the Standard Reimbursement Rate for General Child Care to finance a full-day program; and
  • provides recommendations for developing criteria for appropriate cost reimbursement of a full-day, full-year program serving preschool-age children.