Sometimes a conclusion becomes the first chapter of a new beginning.
Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) is in transition from the past into the future. After providing high quality affordable preschool to children of working and middle class families in Los Angeles County for over a decade, it enters a new era in a strategic partnership with First 5 LA to improve the quality of early care and education.
The new partnership, approved at the May 12 Commission meeting, uses the remaining $51 million balance of First 5 LA’s long-term commitment as part of this transition that will make the best use of declining revenues while improving the quality of preschool.
The legacy of providing quality early childhood education will be sustained via the Quality Rating and improvement System (QRIS), a significant component of First 5 LA’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan in collaboration with the First 5 California initiative, Improve and Maximize Programs so All Children Thrive (IMPACT).
Over the past 12 years, LAUP has brought quality early childhood education to over 125,000 children, educated in over 640 quality preschools throughout Los Angeles County. LAUP’s focus has been on affordability, accessibility and quality. Additionally, LAUP has formed successful partnerships with schools, families, and communities; worked to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers; and has developed a link to community services for L.A. preschool programs.
While First 5 LA’s funding of LAUP will conclude as scheduled on June 30 of this year, LAUP and First 5 LA will advocate for a uniform quality rating and improvement system for early care and education (ECE) programs, workforce development and sustainable public funding to support access to quality ECE for all children.
“Over the last two years we have held a series of workshops for our providers to help them gain funding from a variety of sources,” LAUP CEO Celia C. Ayala said. “While we're proud of our success finding funding for thousands of fully-subsidized preschool slots for 4-year-olds, the challenge in doing so speaks to a fundamental truth: to achieve universal access to quality early care and education opportunities in L.A. County, we need our policy makers to make young children a priority and invest accordingly.”
LAUP is focusing on a new strategic partnership with First 5 LA that will put the strengths of both organizations to bear on improving the quality of and access to early childhood education through systems change.
“This new strategic partnership will support our efforts in four critical areas: Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), workforce development, policy and advocacy and business development,” Ayala said. “QRIS will improve the quality of early education settings and the overall educational experience. It will also provide parents with an easy-to-understand scale to assist in their selection of a quality preschool. In addition, workforce development will help us to develop a new generation of trained professionals and help those already working in the field to grow and expand their knowledge and talents.”
In this next chapter, First 5 LA and LAUP will continue to work closely in collaboration with one another.
"By changing the system and that quality of care, it has a longer term effect on more and more children” - Katie Fallin
“LAUP will be serving 239 sites through this key partnership. We’re really trying to improve the quality of care in the county through QRIS. This means working with providers to rate their quality and also to coach them and help them improve and sustain high quality services,” said Katie Fallin, Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation at First 5 LA. “The most important factor for the children is that they continue to receive this high quality care. We’re focusing on this as a way to serve children and make sure they’re ready for school. By changing the system and that quality of care, it has a longer term effect on more and more children.”
A number of preschool leaders came to the May 12 Commission meeting to thank First 5 LA for its funding of LAUP and to tout the results.
“In my almost 40 years of working in early childhood education, I’ve never seen a better put together program. First 5 LA continues to make the coaching of providers possible. Coaches come out to train teachers, teacher’s assistants, and directors. They assess the children and keep data on their progress,” said Cindy Riding, who heads two preschools supported by LAUP. “It’s wonderful that 71 percent of our children, who graduated out of LAUP, are now in magnet programs in LAUSD. It’s not just about the money. It’s about the coaching, the assessments and the parent engagement. I’m extremely grateful that our children have had access to a pre-kindergarten curriculum that is absolutely unmatched.”
A key focus of this new partnership will be to advocate for policy change and greater public investment in early care and education, with a focus on infants, toddlers and preschool.
“The young children of Los Angeles County are what First 5 LA and LAUP’s mission is all about,” Ayala said. “Now more than ever we need to keep educating the public and lobbying our elected officials for more funding and support for early childhood education at the local, state and national level. We’re proud and grateful that First 5 LA will be standing arm in arm with us in this mission. Thanks to our partnership, our work is now a model to other counties and states – and that’s the highest compliment a program can be given.”
“There’s a big role that we have here,” LAUP Board Chair David Crippens told the First 5 LA Commission on June 9. “To advocate, advocate, advocate that universal early education becomes an essential part of our lives.”