November 1, 2021
(TORRANCE, California) — California’s Department of Education (CDE) announced new initiatives for universal preschool, the creation of an Equity Branch and expansions of their afterschool programs during a three-day Zoom event to celebrate the department’s 100th anniversary.
Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public instruction, opened the event (which began on Oct. 26 and concluded on Oct. 28) by announcing the new developments the department was working on. He also took time to thank the deputy superintendents for their work during the ongoing pandemic.
“I believe this is one of the toughest times to experience in our lifetime, but I believe that we can get through it together and that we can build an education system that builds back better and helps to meet the needs of our many, many students today,” Thurmond said during the event.
Thurmond also highlighted the deputy superintendents who will be in charge of the various new developments.
Sarah Neville-Morgan, the deputy superintendent in charge of universal preschool, lunch distribution, and after-school programs, acknowledged that the programs her department is working on are essential for families today.
“I still say as a working mom myself, we are still very 1958, and this allows us to move into the fact that most of our families need more program hours and support,” Neville-Morgan said during the event.
The universal preschool program will have free classes for 4-year-olds beginning in the 2022 to 2023 school year, according to a press release. The goal is to have it fully implemented by the 2025 to 2026 school year. The universal-lunch program will provide all students with two free or reduced cost meals.
Lastly, the expansion of the after-school program, which will be available to children in preschool through sixth grade, will offer nine hours of programming so students have a safe place to go once the regular school day has ended, according to Neville-Morgan.
Meanwhile, Dr. Daniel Lee will be the deputy superintendent in charge of the Equity Branch, a new program that Lee said will give schools the resources to combat racism and other mistreatment.
Lee stated that the work they are doing isn’t just for the broader community, but also for the employees who work with the Equity Branch on these projects.
“We’re about to launch and announce our first CDE equity, diversity and inclusion and belonging commitments, and we’re proud of that and we have an equity task force that’s helping to lead that work,” Lee said. “So it isn’t just what we’re sort of committed to do sort of externally, the superintendent and the leadership are committed to do things internally.”
Towards the end of the first event, Thurmond thanked the deputies for their mini presentations and proceeded with other scheduled events.