Education and Human Development: A Sector in Crisis

Santa Ana College
Skyline College
Cerritos College
College of the Canyons
Cabrillo College
City College of San Francisco

Note: The following article is not an official statement of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. The article is intended to engender discussion and consideration by local colleges but should not be seen as the endorsement of any position or practice by the ASCCC.

During the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Spring 2021 Plenary Session, Resolution 21.02 S21, Prioritizing System Support for the ECE/EDU Education and Human Development Sector [1] was adopted. The resolution was a call to action based on the anticipated confluence of political and fiscal Early Childhood Education/Education support from federal and state sources and a paralyzing workforce shortage in the sector. For ECE/EDU faculty in the California community colleges, the expectation of a historically significant funding expansion at a time of critical teacher shortages and limited capacity for collaboration and innovation due to the COVID-19 pandemic was distressing.

In December 2020, the governor’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: California for All Kids was released (Office of Governor Gavin Newsome, 2020). The Master Plan outlined the need for child development services in California, benefits to California’s children, and a proposal for universal transitional kindergarten for all California’s four-year-olds and described the opportunity to build on a $500 million federal investment in COVID childcare relief to create a more equitable and fair child development system in the state. The Build Back Better legislation currently being debated at the federal level includes an expansion of a childcare tax credit and the reduction of childcare costs for families, addressing long-term structural deficits in the system (The White House, 2021). This political and financial support at the state and federal levels is welcome, but critical links must be established between funding and the need to develop a robust workforce of teachers and staff that can implement the visions of universal preschool, create a more equitable and comprehensive educational system, and expand opportunities for children with special needs and diverse home languages. These goals center around the availability of highly educated and well-prepared teachers at all levels.

The ECE/EDU sector provides students with a range of foundational competencies that allow for careers in early childhood, after school, and youth development, as teachers in TK-12 classrooms, and in other school-based settings. Community college students obtain entry level jobs in the sector and often pursue academic goals that provide additional career options.

Childcare and education are infra-structure employment needs, as essential to workers as transportation and the internet. Without reliable childcare and consistent, in-person education, parents—primarily women—left the workforce and college during the COVID pandemic to care for children (Calvan & Rugaber, 2021). The reasons for the migration from the workforce or college classrooms can be attributed to a lack of stable, reliable, and healthy settings for children.

Currently, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has prioritized ten priority sectors in career technical education, but ECE/EDU is not a stated priority sector. Yet the education and human development sector enrolled 146,716 students at California community colleges in 2018-2019, ranking fifth in enrollment and in degree and certificate completion and directly addressing issues of equity by providing college pathways leading to employment for the highest percentage of female students at 83%, with 67% of students being non-white. This sector also has the second highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students at 78%.

Locally, regional consortia will be further prioritizing sectors and allocating funding based on both historical and anticipated labor market needs. However, while apprenticeships are viewed as the gold standard of CTE training and wage progression, only 6.7% of registered apprentices in California and 12.5% nationally are women (Discover Apprenticeship, 2021), and in non-traditional sectors such as ECE apprenticeships are scarce.

A lack of teachers has suppressed program growth in health care, nursing, information technology, engineering, and other high demand CTE programs and STEM Pathways and has impacted college and dual-enrollment program growth (Carrese & White, 2020). The quality of student learning is heavily reliant on the skills of the teacher. Educational institutions at all levels should prioritize the development of teachers and support students to become teachers in both theory and practice.

California community colleges already play a pivotal role in recruiting, preparing, and supporting over 85% of the ECE center workforce (Karoly, 2012) and 54% of credentialed TK-12 teachers (Carrese & White, 2019), yet community colleges receive no ongoing workforce development funding from private or public employers, the California Department of Education (CDE) and other state and federal government departments, or other partners. Programs across the state are primarily dependent on grant or external funds to provide career-specific student support. The ECE/EDU sector has suffered from financial under-funding and a lack of support at the system level for years.

State-level leadership is needed to create state-wide opportunities to partner with the CDE in implementing transitional kindergarten in California, which is anticipated to create 11,000 new jobs by 2025 (Learning Policy Institute, 2021). Despite being provided by Prop 98, most of the existing teacher recruitment workforce development funds are not open to community colleges to apply for. Historically, teacher recruitment and development funds have been distributed through the CDE to local education associations (LEAs) or districts, post-BA credential programs, and four-year institutions. This omission means that community college students do not have access to the critical supports and services needed to complete sector coursework, obtain degrees, and transfer, and faculty are not at the table when decisions about who becomes a teacher in California are made. Additionally, the California Department of Social Services now oversees a range of childcare programs in the state, and workforce preparation needs to be part of any of their expansion goals.

Without significantly altering recruitment and support practices in teaching at all levels, the current diversity imbalance between California’s teachers and students and equity goals will continue to be unaddressed. Teachers, especially in K-12 settings, do not reflect the diversity and language needs of the children in California’s classrooms. The report Prioritizing Educator Diversity with New State & Federal Funding (Mathews et al, 2021) recommends new state and federal workforce funds be utilized to provide incentives for collaboration between LEAs, districts, community colleges, universities, and teacher education programs to establish a stronger supply of eligible educators of color. Moreover, the community college system needs adequate financial support for the California Early Childhood Mentor Program, ideally through the Chancellor’s Office, so students can complete their fieldwork in diverse community sites (California Early Childhood Mentor Program, 2017). Many ECE programs struggle to find qualified applicants (Gedye, 2021). This shortage also affects TK-12 classrooms (Lambert, 2021), which leads to having educators who are not fully qualified in those classrooms (Gecker, 2021) and ECE programs having to close or limit enrollment (Aguilera, 2021).

The COVID crisis has destabilized the sector, disrupted ECE and TK-12 teacher preparation pipelines, and resulted in significant impacts on working and single parents, especially essential, low to moderate wage displaced workers and families who have suffered from the loss of ECE and after-school childcare (Center for the Study of Child Care Employment , 2020). Serious teacher shortages over the next five years were projected to create over 124,000 openings annually in California for a cluster of twenty teacher occupations including preschool, elementary, secondary, special education, and related occupations prior to COVID (Darling-Hammond, Sutcher, & Carver-Thomas, 2018). The shortfall is now worse.

The work of ECE/EDU programs needs to be prioritized at the state level. The sector needs support for existing communities of practice and professional development models and prioritization due to COVID pandemic destabilization. The work of the ECE/EDU sector encompasses the goals of caring for and educating California’s children and youth, supporting economic recovery by allowing parents and guardians to return to work, providing well-educated and highly skilled teachers in California’s ECE, K-12, and college classrooms and programs, preparing students for college success, and ensuring that subsequent generations can be productive, contributing, and employable.


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[1] Full text of the resolution can be found at