Gubernatorial debate includes pledges for universal preschool from Democrats

By Nico Savidge, EdSource

The Democratic candidates for governor of California reaffirmed their support for universal preschool during Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate in San Jose, pledging that they would work to make it a reality if elected.

By contrast, their Republican counterparts opposed the idea of providing state-subsidized preschool for all low-income California 4-year-olds.

All six leading candidates — four Democrats and two Republicans — participated in the event, which was sponsored by NBC Bay Area and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The foundation’s Center for Early Learning launched a multi-million-dollar “Choose Children” campaign last September calling for the next governor to make early childhood education a priority.

The principal moderator was Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, with additional questions posed by several Bay Area media representatives.

Participants also touched on high pension costs facing school districts and the current strike of some workers in the University of California system. But early education was the education issue that the candidates discussed in the most detail during the 90-minute debate.

Without giving details as to what kinds of preschool programs he would endorse were he to be elected governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state should go beyond preschool. He stressed the importance of supporting children and their families during the first three years of life, as well as services for expectant mothers.

“We need to focus on prenatal care, we need to focus on building the architecture of the brain in those first three critical years,” Newsom said. “This must be a top priority for the next governor of California.”

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