California moves towards making preschool universally accessible

This could be a game-changer for so many families.

California moves towards making preschool universally accessible

Sending children to kindergarten can be eye-opening. As much as we'd like to think that the start of a child's official education represents a level playing field, that may not always be the case. What kids are exposed to in the years before they enroll in kindergarten matters—but not everyone has access to solid pre-kindergarten education.

That may be changing soon in California, though. Back in December of 2018, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty authored the Pre-K Act for All Act of 2019, a bill that aims to make preschool more accessible for low-income residents. Last week, that bill was passed by The California Assembly.

This is a huge step towards making the act, which proposes to build upon existing state-funded pre-K programs, a reality. Next up, it will appear before Senate for a vote.

If passed, the bill will go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year. It will allow state preschools with at least 70% of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals to open remaining seats up for kids who were otherwise ineligible for such programs. What does this mean, exactly? Well, it could be a game-changer for a lot for families who haven't qualified for this type of program—but couldn't independently afford preschool enrollment—in the past.

"There are too many kids from families that are too rich to qualify for the free [program] but too poor to pay the one to two thousand dollars a month it costs for full-day preschool programs in California," McCarty, who has over 20 years of experience working in education policy, told local news site LAist.

Under this bill, schools would cap classroom allowance at 24 students. It would also establish the California Preschool Teacher Qualification Program, which would support school staff members as they pursue teaching qualifications. Other goals include increasing diversity among school staff and increasing compensation of preschool teachers.

"...When I saw the research, and really dug into the issues, [I realized] we have this crazy achievement gap for so many kids in California, specifically kids in underrepresented neighborhoods and communities of color," says McCarty in an interview with LAist.

"We as a society had thought for many years, 'Oh, kids start kindergarten at the starting point in a race and it's all equal.' But we realized that kids now are starting kindergarten way behind. And so it's creating a big, big problem in our education system."

We'll have to wait and see if this bill is officially put into effect, but it definitely represents a significant step towards an important change, one that will affect so many California families.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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