School district gears up for full-day preschool

Subsidized program aims to benefit parents and children

In the latest move to improve early childhood education in the district, Mountain View Whisman school board members voted unanimously to pilot full-day preschool that will be offered at a fraction of the price of local private preschools.

Starting this fall, the school district will offer up to 24 spots for children to enroll in full-day preschool, which lasts seven hours instead of three. Full-day programs offer more instructional time for students and greater freedom for parents -- particularly in low-income families -- to pursue work and educational opportunities.

The full-day preschool would cost $350 per month for families making less than $71,065 each year.

The decision by trustees at the March 1 board meeting follows a string of votes by school board members to improve the preschool program since 2015, which cumulatively have expanded the program, raised the income eligibility requirements and opened the door for families from all income brackets -- even those who don't meet state income requirements -- to apply for the lower-cost preschool. The school board also voted to dip into the district's coffers in 2015 in order to keep preschool spots open when state funding dried up.

Since 2015, the number of available preschool spaces has increased from 140 to 224 -- split between the Theuerkauf and Castro elementary school campuses.

The board's most vocal proponent of preschool education, Ellen Wheeler, told the Voice that the school district has done an enviable job of expanding preschool access compared to the rest of Santa Clara County.

Wheeler said much of the credit goes to preschool director Terri Wallace, who is on the ball whenever state money becomes available or a state law makes it easier for families to enroll for state-subsidized preschool. Eligibility requirements raised the income ceiling for families to apply under Assembly Bill 2368, which was authored by former State Assemblyman Rich Gordon and went into effect in January. Under the revised guidelines, the district doesn't charge any preschool tuition if a family of four makes $71,065 or less a year.

"Now we can finally have a full-day preschool operating at the same hours as regular elementary schools," Wheeler said. "Wallace has been working on this for quite a while. It hasn't been easy, but we are ahead of most of the county in what we can offer now."

Families earning too much under the state preschool eligibility guidelines can still apply, but the cost climbs quickly. Families making up to $8,624 in gross monthly income -- regardless of family size -- would pay $1,000 each month under the proposed fee schedule, and families making over $8,625 would pay $1,150. The schedule is still a fairly good deal compared to private preschool rates in Mountain View, which range from $1,150 to $1,650 per month, according to the staff report.

The downside to the pilot is that, by offering full-day preschool in the same number of classrooms that have hosted two daily half-day programs, fewer children can attend. The available spots drop from 224 to 198 under the full-day pilot, according to a district staff report.

Despite that loss, Wallace said the pilot comes on the heels of a survey that found the vast majority of parents -- 89 percent of respondents -- were interested in a full, seven-hour program, which helps meet the needs of lower-income families with fewer options for child care.

The benefits to preschool students and their families have been well-documented over the years. A 2006 study by the National Institute for Early Education Research found that students, even those who are behind on vocabulary and literacy skills, can benefit and become ready for kindergarten through "extended-duration" preschool. The longer preschool day led to higher performance on both vocabulary and math skills compared to part-day preschool students, the study found, leading to better academic performance through at least the spring of first grade.

"While further research is needed to augment this study of half-day versus extended-day preschool education, the results clearly indicate that duration matters," the study said. "Extended-day preschool of good quality had dramatic and lasting effects on children's learning across a broad range of knowledge and skills."

The study goes on to say that some children, particularly from low-income families with working parents, may miss out on preschool education altogether if half-day preschool is the only available option.

A 2016 report by the Urban Institute looked specifically at Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, where 3- and 4-year-old children from families making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line are less likely to enroll in early childhood education than wealthier families. About half of these lower-income families are single-parent families or have two working parents, making it difficult to get children to and from part-day preschool during the work day.

At the board meeting, Wheeler said that the district's foray into full-day preschool is "unusual" in the sense that most school districts in the county and around the state do not offer the option at all, and described Wallace as somewhat of a trailblazer for taking the initiative.

"A lot of people are watching us, and they are very interested in (Wallace's) work," she said.


228 people like this
Posted by Don't Re-elect Wheeler
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 12, 2018 at 3:36 pm

That's right Ellen, take as much credit as you can for the pre-school program while you give no credit to the long serving principals that have been working faithfully and tirelessly for years in the district. All started out as teachers here in Mountain View and even live amongst us in the community. Any fault you have fabricated against them lies ultimately at your feet for your inability to find a true, compassionate and caring leader.

I cannot wait to vote you and the rest off the board.

1 person likes this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Mar 12, 2018 at 6:26 pm

On the issue of funding preschool, Trustee Ellen Wheeler has been a champion for years, and I applaud her and Terri Wallace for this essential step towards eliminating the effects of poverty in MV's schools.

At a time when many other districts are eliminating preschool/TK as a non-mandated expense, it's wonderful MVWSD is looking at the long term.

Observe any kindergarten and you see the large achievement gap. Full day preschool is the best way for working families to gain access to the benefits of high quality preschool. If the pilot is successful, it would be a great service for all MV families to see affordable preschool expanded to help middle-class families as well.

It was never effective that we spend more later in when it's cheaper to provide enrichments and interventions earlier in a child's life. On that note, I hope the high school district will one day share its extra resources with MVWSD, since high school efforts to reduce their achievement gap would be all the more successful if there were no achievement gap among the students entering high school.

Research on the benefit of preschool:
White House Study:
Web Link

Other Economic Studies:
Web Link

One can have reservations on how MVWSD handled its recent staffing issues, all the while take a moment to celebrate this progressive step. Bravo MVWSD!

6 people like this
Posted by Preschool parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 13, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Where did they get that 1150-1650 figure from?

Would LOVE TO see more affordable preschool around here, seems like everything is at least 2K!

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 13, 2018 at 3:51 pm

Ellen Wheeler for as long as I’ve sat through board meeting and at different events has done us all a disservice by not listening to parents,teacher and the public. She loves to hear herself talk. Extremely counterproductive.

Like this comment
Posted by Preschool $$
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 13, 2018 at 4:57 pm

@preschool parent - The Wonder Years is $1600, Children's Learning Cottage is $1565, Tiny Einstein is $2045.

1 person likes this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 10:33 am

I totally agree that Ellen Wheeler, as a trustee over the last 8 or 9 years, has really and effectively rallied behind PK in MVWSD. As a former Headstart volunteer in West Berkeley, and from the many studies that I've also read (not a 1/10 of those that Wheeler has read) I know that such programs - when done with the measured Quality of MVWSD's can make an academic difference lasting the first 3 years of public schooling.

This care needs to continue, with weekend and summer academic opportunities for TARGET students (LCFF) continuously at least through 3rd grade. Otherwise, numerous studies throughout the decades show It Makes NO DIFFERENCE! Berkeley USD as well as MVWSD continue to show up as WORST 20 in the national database of ACADEMIC GAPS for minority students. (Reardon, Stanford University 2009-2013 data).

Chris Chiang - every day in every way we are getting better and better! But such a Long Way to GO!

Latest round of School Accountability Report Cards - state average 37% of budgets to teachers employment, MVWSD is only using 31% of its budget for teacher employment. Page 8 of the link below. Employ More Teachers for these Target Students and Less Consultants (MVWSD has had a much higher than state average % of budget to consultants over the last several years) Ask your Trustees why? (This proceeded Dr. Rudolph, but has not been addressed, as those reading this must know!)

Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Pre-born next?
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 15, 2018 at 2:23 am

Pre-born next? is a registered user.

Pre-school is differenr from daycare in that _____. Hey, if the parents work, or can't be found, why not have the public pay for daycare and why stop there? Money is no object. Just print more money.

2 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Mar 15, 2018 at 7:03 am

Saving money is exactly why high quality preschool is important. We end up spending so much more on intervention. Our desire to save money by skimping on at-risk children mean we spend more when they are older, then ever more in added prisons and lower lifetime tax revenue.

A Nobel Prize winning Economist says public preschool programs should start at birth:
Web Link

This sounds naive, but see the Harlem Children Zone where schools are involved with at risk families the moment parents are pregnant: Web Link

Yes, we don't have the upfront funds to be the Harlem Children Zone, I wish (even if there's a larger social return), so preschool is a start. And, it wouldn't cost much to also partner with hospitals to bridge the gap and offer more services to early children in the form of free early learning disability diagnostics, prenatal and early parent education, and even free quality children books. MVWSD already leads in parent education for older families, it's return will be even greater with any supports it can give to early childhood.

6 people like this
Posted by @Christopher Chiang
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 15, 2018 at 3:03 pm

"Observe any kindergarten and you see the large achievement gap."

Problem is by third grade there is no measurable difference between those who did pre-school and those who did not. It is an expensive boondoggle that gets no results-perfect for the MvW-Whisman school district to waste money on.

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