San Francisco preschools to benefit from state funding injection 

click to enlarge The state is giving preschools $25 million after years of hefty cuts. - CINDY CHEW/2005 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Cindy Chew/2005 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • The state is giving preschools $25 million after years of hefty cuts.

Preschools in California received a minor boost in funding last week when the California Department of Education released $25 million to help restore money lost during the economic downturn.

The funds are aimed at allowing some 200 programs funded by the state to increase access to education. Though it won't cover all the money cut from these programs, state officials say it's a step in the right direction.

"Our hope is that these funds can begin to remove some of the obstacles working families face by opening doors to high-quality preschool that might otherwise have been shut," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement.

President Barack Obama said earlier this summer that early childhood education needs to become a priority for Americans.

Monica Walters, CEO of Wu Yee Children's Services, said the comments from federal and state officials are encouraging.

"I think what's exciting for all the early care and education field is we're finally becoming part of the national conversation," Walters said. "Starting with the president and other state and local governments, they are recognizing that investing in kids as early as possible makes sense."

Walters' organization, which serves 220 kids 5 years or younger at five locations, will receive about $110,000. Though it won't cover all the cuts since 2008, it will allow Wu Yee to add more children to its existing programs.

"We've not been able to expand as the need has increased," Walters said. "With more funding, we could serve more children."

At Mission Neighborhood Centers Inc., which serves roughly 400 children under the age of 5, the money will allow it to add 20 children and create a part-time, partial-day class.

Dolores Terrazas, the division director for child services, estimated that the organization would receive $89,000.

An estimated $122 million has been cut from California preschool programs, while all childhood development programs have seen a cumulative cut of $1 billion since 2008.

In San Francisco, the cuts have hurt programs, but the situation has been less devastating because of local funding via City Hall and voter initiatives, according to Wei-Min Wang of First Five San Francisco.

San Francisco is "committed to our youngest children and the voters have always been supportive of children's causes," Wang said. "This was not the case in any other county in the state."

Correction: This story was updated Aug. 28 to correct the number of locations where Wu Yee Children's Services offers programs. The organization has five locations citywide.

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