Publication Date

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




Emily Slusser


childcare, early childhood education, ECE, policy, policymakers, preschool

Subject Areas

Early childhood education; Educational leadership; Education


Although there is widespread agreement about the life-long benefits of high-quality childcare and preschool, access for all children in California is limited. The negative effects of this inadequate landscape are borne predominantly by children living in poverty, and middle-income families who do not qualify for subsidies and cannot afford full-fee care. This mixed-methods study examines specific factors that impede expansion and improvement of childcare/preschool in California, from the perspective of five diverse policymakers. Findings reveal a variety of policy solutions in the areas of funding, teacher workforce, quality of care, policy development, and public perception of the importance of high-quality childcare/preschool. In the second phase of the study, an online survey was disseminated to gauge alignment between policymakers and the public, with results pointing to similarities and differences that contribute to understanding why, when there is unanimous agreement about moving towards universal access to high-quality childcare/preschool, California still struggles to make progress. The study concludes with a discussion of systems change and specific system traps that should be addressed, so California can positively impact outcomes for all children and families around the state.