Every Student Succeeds Act: A Vision to Address the Needs of California’s Youngest Learners

In 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s K-12 education law. ESSA includes several policy changes, including funding preschool and optimizing children’s developmental and academic trajectories by supporting the alignment of early learning programs and the K-12 system.

The purpose of this brief is to provide policy recommendations for the ESSA State Plan that addresses the needs of our youngest learners.

ESSA declares that K-12 funding, such as Title I, II, III, can be used to fund preschool and early learning initiatives.The California State Board of Education (SBE) and the California Department of Education (CDE) have the task of developing California’s ESSA state plan, which will explain how California will meet the federal statutory requirements under ESSA while aligning with the goals of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The final California ESSA plan is due on September 18, 2017 to the U.S. Department of Education. Stakeholder input is required before the California ESSA plan is finalized. Given the greater emphasis of early learning in ESSA statute language, California has an opportunity to give thoughtful consideration to the alignment between the early learning and transitional kindergarten (TK) systems. Furthermore, a parallel opportunity emerged in November 2016, when California voters overwhelmingly (73.5%)1 passed Proposition 58, a state ballot initiative that creates more opportunities for students to become bilingual and biliterate. This new state policy context and the opportunities it provides are important to embed into the ESSA state plan, particularly from an early childhood and a DLL lens.