With increased discussion of universal preschool in California, and the possibility of increased educational standards for early childhood educators, it has become critically important to assess the capacity of the state’s higher education system to meet rising demands for teacher preparation. Thus far, the discussion is moving toward raising the bar higher than California’s current Title 5 standards,1 possibly as high as a bachelor’s degree with a credential for lead teachers, and an AA and Child Development Permit for assistant teachers. At least 20 states and the District of Columbia now require bachelor’s degrees for teachers in state-financed prekindergarten programs (Barnett, 2003).
The California Master Plan for Education (Joint Committee, 2002; see box below) calls for the state to “adopt more rigorous education requirements and certification standards for all individuals who teach young children in center-based settings or who supervise others who care for young children,” and a recent First 5 California document proposes that “preschool teacher education and compensation…increase to parity with Kindergarten/early elementary teachers” (First 5 California Children and Families Commission, 2003). Such a step would mean that preschool teachers would earn not only a BA but also a post-baccalaureate teaching credential. These recommendations are coming at a time when the state’s community colleges are already experiencing increased demand through the advent of CARES (Compensation and Retention Encourage Stability) and other professional development initiatives, and when all institutions of higher education are severely affected by the California budget crisis.