Bay Area Council Blog: Education Archive


Bay Area Council Strengthens National ECE Effort

By Matt Regan

The Bay Area Council is pleased to share our strengthening of ties across the country on the issue of early childhood education (ECE). In particular, we are delighted that Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council, has recently accepted an invitation to join the Advisory Council to the Partnership for America’s Economic Success, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Jim’s champion status as an ECE supporter and his wise strategic council to Pew have already made him a valuable resource to the Partnership, and we are excited about the potentials for learning and advancement of ECE afforded by this new national alliance.

Our strong relationship with the Pew Charitable Trusts has developed over time, beginning with an early childhood education event at the Milken Institute (sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts) in February 2008 at which our Chairman, Lenny Mendonca, spoke. Then, in September 2008, Jim Wunderman and Linda Galliher, Vice President of Education and Healthcare, attended the Pew-sponsored Economic Summit on Early Childhood Investment in Telluride, Colorado. Jim was an active and vocal participant in that conference of business leaders, discussing the challenges and future of ECE in each state. Jim was also able to spend time talking through salient issues with James Heckman, economist, Nobel Laureate, and supporter of ECE given both the economic realities and return on social investment afforded by early care and education.

Since last year, Pew has reached out to the Bay Area Council for advice and counsel during a reformulation of its ECE strategy for 2009. We look forward to our continued and growing partnership!

To learn more about how the Bay Area Council is advancing ECE in California and around the nation, please contact Matt Regan, Director of Government Relations and Early Childhood Education, at

Please also see the Council’s recently released report—Key to Economic Success in the 21st Century: Investment in Early Childhood Programs —on the state of early childhood education in the nine-county Bay Area.


Bay Area Council Tackles Early Childhood Education Issue

By Matt Regan

This week the Bay Area Council released a new report that highlights the impressive returns resulting from investments in quality early education.

Perhaps more than any other region in the United States, or even the world, the Bay Area is a knowledge based economy. We do not have giant smoke stacks, miles of assembly lines, or thousands of acres of crops or timber driving our economic engine. Instead we have research laboratories, venture funded start ups, innovative high technology companies and pioneering biotech and cleantech industries. The raw materials for this unique economy are not mined or harvested, they are nurtured; they are our children.

If the Bay Area is to maintain its competitive advantage in the 21st century and stay ahead of other rival metropolitan regions who would seek to succeed us as the world’s innovation leader; regions such as Shanghai, London, Bangalore or Dublin, we need to ensure that the young people entering our workforce have the best possible education and possess all the necessary skills to succeed.

We are currently failing our young people and failing the Bay Area. Our education system is not producing the caliber of graduates necessary to meet the demands of our economy. 20% of Bay Area employees lack even a high school diploma and we cannot continue along this path and expect to remain competitive.

According to Nobel Laureate in Economics, James Heckman, “The best way to improve the American workforce of the 21st century is to invest in early education, to ensure that even the most disadvantaged children have the opportunity to succeed alongside their more advantaged peers.” Early education means the years zero to five. 90% of a child’s brain growth occurs before the 3rd birthday and if that child is not sufficiently stimulated during those early years he/she will enter kindergarten unprepared and will likely never bridge the achievement gap and catch up.

The jury is now in. Investments in high quality educational experiences in the years zero to five significantly improve not only school achievement but also a range of social and economic outcomes throughout life. Skeptics will no doubt ask if we can afford such an investment particularly in these economic times, but the data is very clear; investments in high quality early care and education generate a higher rate of return than almost any other public investment.

There are also immediate or more short term economic benefits to investing in these programs. The availability of quality early care and education programs increases the productivity of today’s workforce, by reducing absenteeism, tardiness and stress related issues.

This is a business issue, one of particular importance to this region, and the Bay Area Council recognizes that fact.


Hewlett Foundation Awards $900,000 Grant for Education Reform

By Chandra Alexandre

Last Week, the Education Reform team at the Bay Area Council was notified by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that they had been awarded a $900,000 three-year grant to lead a statewide education reform movement. The grant will allow the Bay Area Council to build capacity and support efforts toward statewide education reform in partnership with relevant stakeholders.

With California in crisis, we believe there is an opportunity for reform that hasn’t been seen in generations. With this grant from the Hewlett Foundation, we will continue to help drive the education reform consensus forward—particularly through our work engaging business leaders, both among our membership and in companies throughout other regions across the state. As the voice of business, the Council recognizes that it is critical for California to meet the challenges of education reform through sound and timely information, a strategic alignment of voices among business, K-12 educators, policy makers and higher education, and the ability to work together across communities, jurisdictions and industries.

The needs of our children and sustenance of our state’s economic future require that business takes a stand to help ameliorate the dramatic challenges inherent in our current public education system. The Council’s history of leading on public policy, its statewide approach, and partnerships with a variety of stakeholders make it a strong driver of successful public policy in education, and we will leverage our strengths to ensure the success of our endeavors for education reform.

With this grant, the Council will be able to focus on initiating action toward goals supported by Getting Down to Facts, a major body of research overseen by Stanford University that delves into the finance and governance of public education in California. The objective of our efforts will be to determine how best to create reform opportunities that are not only true to the underlying research and recommendations, but also that allow for input and ownership by all major stakeholders, in turn building trust and momentum statewide.

Recognizing that changes in education cannot be successful in a state whose government is broken, the grant also includes funds to utilize the forum of the Council-led California Constitutional Convention to help build the path for education reform. The idea is to start with reforming the structure of government, then quickly draft on the momentum to secure bold and systematic change in education. Our method of harnessing a “people’s movement” and building an unlikely coalition for the Constitutional Convention could also crack open the door for a new alliance on education reform. Together, the two synergistic education and government reform movements can help California get back on its feet again.

For more information on the work the Council is doing in education and to become engaged in our effort, please contact Linda Galliher, Vice President of Education and Healthcare. For an opportunity to contribute as a supporting partner, please contact Chandra Alexandre, Director of Development and click here to see the Bay Area Council Foundation’s initiatives.


Effective data can save money and kids

By Linda Galliher

President Obama has said that his administration will have one simple test for whether he continues to spend money on any government program. That test is “Does it work?” California currently spends $50 Billion a year on public education without good data on what works. In these hard budget times especially, we must spend our precious public dollars efficiently. We need a 21st Century data system to supply the information needed for teachers, administrators, and parents to know which practices are best practices. At no cost to taxpayers, McKinsey & Company, an elite global consulting group, has designed such a data system for California. See the design here. The Bay Area Council and many other individuals and groups have written to encourage the Governor to support the development of this critical tool for education excellence. See the Governor’s reply letter supporting the data system here. To keep the issue active on the public and legislative agenda, Chief Magnus and I recently co-wrote an opinion piece for the Contra Costa Times.


Best Practices in Early Childhood Education

By Matt Regan

There is a growing body of research and evidence that is pointing towards the very clear conclusion that investing in early childhood education and development produces returns not seen in any other arena of government spending.   Studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota, Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman, and a soon to be released economic impact report commissioned by the Bay Area Council, all indicate clearly that quality early childhood programs result in higher educational attainment later in life, lower rates of social problems such as drug dependency or teen pregnancy, lower dependency on welfare and lower rates of criminal behavior. Some research indicates that the return on investment in such quality programs can be as high as 17:1.

So what does a quality early childhood education program look like and where can one be found?  Bay Area Council Director of Government Relations, Matt Regan, travelled to New Jersey this week with a delegation of California lawmakers, business leaders and child advocates on a fact finding mission to observe what is arguably the premier early childhood education system in the nation.  The purpose of the trip was to collect examples of best practices, learn how the State of New Jersey has funded and rolled out this impressive program in such a short period of time, and see what, if anything, could be brought back to California.

The Abbott Preschool Program was developed in response to a 1998 mandate from New Jersey’s Supreme Court, requiring the provision of preschool for all 3 and 4 year olds in the state’s highest poverty districts.  This decision was part of a larger court mandate to provide all the state’s children with a “thorough and efficient education” as required by the New Jersey State Constitution.

New Jersey now requires that all Abbott preschool teachers have a Bachelors Degree and an early learning certificate. Each Abbott classroom has no more than 15 children with a teacher and an aide. Each 20 classes have support from a Master Teacher as well as a team of social workers and professionals in special needs areas.  Abbot schools are designed to strict guidelines with a minimum of 950 sq ft per classroom with two bathrooms, as well as five defined and researched curriculums that schools can choose from.

Abbott preschools have proved incredibly popular with parents are over subscribed. New Jersey  Governor John Corzine, recognizing the success of the program and the long term benefits to his state is seeking court permission to expand Abbott preschools to all of New Jersey’s school districts, not just the most impoverished.
As in everything we look at in these cash strapped economic times, the question must be asked, how much does this Cadillac program cost, and can California afford to emulate it?

California currently spends $3,486 per year per child in our State preschool program, New Jersey spends $11,831 per child enrolled in the Abbott program and a partial local government match is required.  These figures represent a distinct difference of priorities and vision between our two states and time will only tell if New Jersey’s investment pays off but the early signs are good.  According to the first longitudinal effects study of the program carried out by the National Institute for Early Education Research the achievement gap that had previously hampered children from underprivileged communities was closing fast and that Abbott children were out performing their peers in language skills, reading and math.  Continuing studies of Abbott children are ongoing as they progress through the K-12 system, and if The Federal Reserve of Minnesota, James Heckman et al are correct, New Jersey can begin to reap the benefits of Abbott very shortly if they are not doing so already.

So the question we should be asking here in California is not whether we can afford a similar investment in our children, rather can we afford not to?


Bay Area Council Foundation Awarded $125,000 Grant for Preschool Initiative

By Chandra Alexandre

We have just received word of a grant award from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in the amount of $125,000 for our Bay Area Employer Engagement Initiative for Early Childhood Education. We’re tremendously excited about this grant for a project effort geared toward achieving a strong, local business support-base for preschool throughout the Bay Area region. Specifically, we’re beginning the process of building a constituency for statewide preschool for four year olds–please contact Linda Galliher, VP of Education, if you are interested in learning more.

Objectives of the initiative are to:

  • Increase corporate and public awareness of the power of ECE strategies to improve student academic achievement, lessen the social burden on taxpayers, and help expand the workforce and employees’ career opportunities.
  • Mobilize senior executive-level corporate leadership to promote and sustain business-education partnerships that support systemic change, e.g., increased efficiencies and enhanced outcomes.
  • Provide forums for business leaders to collaborate in focusing and aligning their education and workforce preparation investments to maximize impact.
  • Leverage the involvement of business to help: a) support ECE; b) articulate preschool with K-12; c) optimize data use and make continuous improvements; and d) make systemic school improvements.
  • Ensure quality, measurement, and accountability for results.