Santa Rosa, CA – May 19, 2015 – On May 19, 2015, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors supported the creation of a First 5 Sonoma preschool facilities grant program to address early care and education needs in Sonoma County. The Board approved $350,000 in funding from First 5 and an additional $305,000 in general fund support. With this level of funding, First 5 can leverage state and federal dollars to preserve all subsidized preschool slots at risk of being lost, as well as expand slots so that more children will be able to access early education.
"Universal preschool access is a top priority of our Board, and we are proud to work with our partners to advance this effort," said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin. "It is critical to invest in our community's youth, and today's funding is a strong financial investment as well; maintaining the identified 312 preschool slots will return $12 million back to the County within five years, an $18 to $1 return on investment."
In recent years, state and federal budget cuts diminished the availability of funding for subsidized preschool slots. From 2009 to 2013, these cuts resulted in the loss of 600 spaces for low income families throughout Sonoma County. The facilities grant program will restore some previously cut spaces, as well as maintain the 312 at risk slots.
The lack of available facilities and upgrades to existing sites to meet state standards is a significant challenge in Sonoma County. With this new facilities grant program, the North Bay Children's Center, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, and Community Child Care Council will garner assistance with necessary renovations and remodeling to increase access to existing or new sites and save preschool spaces.
"Expanding preschool access for low income families strongly aligns with our County's goals to reduce poverty and decrease health disparities, priorities outlined in the Portrait of Sonoma County report," stated Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who is also a First 5 Commissioner.
First 5 will work with colleagues at the Department of Health Services and the Human Services Department, and other partners to develop a long-term facilities plan that will actively seek additional investments from local foundations, schools, and businesses.
"We will continue to work with our community partners to ensure more children have access to preschool and remain creative and sustainable in our funding mechanisms to leverage additional funding sources," stated Alfredo Perez, First 5 Executive Director.
"Facilities are absolutely critical to the success of early childhood education Upstream Investments such as Head Start. We appreciate the leadership and support of First 5 and the Board of Supervisors on this issue," said Tim Reese, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County Executive Director.