Preschool teaching degree program graduates first class

A collaboration between San Francisco State University and a San Mateo community college is yielding its first graduating class in early childhood education, a field that could change radically this summer if a ballot measure passes.

California could join more than 25 states that require a bachelor’s degree for preschool teachers this summer if the “Preschool for All” Proposition 82 passes, part of a national trend toward greater education requirements for people working with children from birth through kindergarten. Experts in the field say they believe higher credentials mean better care for children, and that degrees will encourage the higher pay needed to halt large turnover rates, SFSU spokeswoman Janet Egiziano said.

The joint program helped 13 Peninsula students prepare for this future, part of a much larger overall class. The students majored in child and adolescent development and took SFSU classes at Cañada College, one of three community colleges in San Mateo County.

The program started in 2001 at Cañada’s new University Center “to serve what they called place-bound students,” Egiziano said. Redwood City is 30 miles from the nearest public four-year university, and many motivated students had simply remained in community college. Redwood City resident Kaiyette Jensen, for example, started the program with 129 units of credit earned in community college, while only 120 units are required for a bachelor’s degree.

“Thanks to this program, I was able to get my bachelor’s degree to support my family,” said Jensen, a single mother who teaches preschool in the Redwood City Elementary School district. “We should have had this years ago.”

Fear of taking core subject requirements and the long commute to San Francisco both stood in these students’ way, Egiziano said. But by working closely with Cañada, which charges SFSU no rent, the university was able to bring its curriculum down the Peninsula

Jensen and fellow student Anna Mrsny said they were motivated by the desire to work with children. But they will also command better pay and have more opportunities with a degree, regardless of Prop. 82.’s success. Some school districts are already putting bachelor’s requirements into place for their preschool teachers, a factor that motivated Jensen to finish her degree this year.

Nondegreed child care workers make between $10 an hour and $27,000 yearly, reports indicate. A degree-holder makes around $30,000 and can make $50,000 or more, Egiziano said. Prop. 82 would require teachers be paid similarly to public school teachers, funding the cost through a tax on Californians making more than $400,000.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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