Sonoma County Office of Education

Child Care Planning Council

Investing in Early Childhood Education

Thank you for your interest in investing in early childhood education! We hope that the information on this page will help you identify areas of need, mechanisms for investment, and resources for next steps. Please feel free to contact Susy Marron at smarron@scoe.org or (707) 524-2639 for individualized support and consultation regarding investing in ECE.

To go directly to “How to Invest in ECE,” click here.


Why Invest in ECE

Economic Benefits of Early Childhood Education
Children who have experienced high-quality early childhood education are more likely to have increased behavioral and academic readiness, which can lead to greater success in grades K-12, including higher test scores and graduation rates, lower public dollars spent on remedial education, and a more prepared workforce to support the local economy. Early childhood education can also decrease the amount of public spending through the lowering of criminal justice costs and the reduction of welfare use. Investing in children at an early age therefore generates life-long benefits for children and society as a whole. For more information, see resources on The Heckman Equation.

In 2012, there was $123.8 million spent annually on child care in Sonoma County. This spending creates an additional impact of $90.2 million in the local economy, for a total impact of $214 million. For every direct dollar spent on child care, an additional $0.73 is generated in the local economy. Please see the 2012 Update–Child Care Economic Impact Analysis for Sonoma County.

“Annual rates of return on preschool investments are estimated at 10 percent or higher each year over the students’ lifetimes, exceeding the 6 to 7 percent average rate of return typically expected of government programs and the stock market. Preschool is far more cost-effective than programs that correct educational and social problems in later years.” The Economic Promise of Investing in High-Quality Preschool: Using Early Education to Improve Economic Growth and the Fiscal Sustainability of States and the Nation, Committee for Economic Development, 2006


Returns on Investment Infographic
Returns on InvestmentClick to enlarge or download


Sonoma County ECE Needs

Needs Assessment
The Child Care Planning Council conducts a county-wide assessment of child care needs, called the “Needs Assessment,” at least once every five years. The term “child care” includes a range of early care and education settings, including half-day and full-day preschools, licensed family child care homes, after-school programs, etc. The information in this study is used to:

  • Identify gaps and opportunities
  • Guide strategies and investments
  • Inform the development of the 2016-2021 comprehensive county-wide Child Care Plan

Click here to see the most recent Needs Assessment.


Portrait of Sonoma CountyA Portrait of Sonoma
A Portrait of Sonoma County is an in-depth look at how residents of Sonoma County are faring in three fundamental areas of life: health, access to knowledge, and living standards. Its first recommendation for an action agenda is a population-based intervention to ‘Make Universal Preschool a Reality.’

Today, only about half of Sonoma County’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool and, among Latinos, the rate falls to 39 percent.

“A commitment among municipalities, the county, the business community, the school system, and the philanthropic community to meet the need for subsidized preschool would help secure a life of choice and value for today’s Sonoma County children. As quality is fundamental to the benefit of preschooling, raising the wages of preschool personnel to attract teachers with early childhood expertise is important.”

A Portrait of Sonoma County
Sonoma County Human Development Report 2014
County of Sonoma Department of Health Services


Cradle to CareerCradle to Career Sonoma County
Cradle to Career Sonoma County is a historic partnership that connects all segments of the educational continuum—early childhood, K-12, college/technical training, careers—with broad community support to improve the educational, economic, and health outcomes for all Sonoma County youth. Cradle to Career has three goals that span this continuum from school readiness to assuring all students are college and career ready.

Goal 1: Every Child Enters Kindergarten Ready to Succeed
The Goal 1 Workgroup is dedicated to using data and leveraging existing and future resources to ensure that all Sonoma County students have access to high-quality early learning opportunities. Early care and education experts agree that aligning investments can make a difference for every child in Sonoma County. The Workgroup identified the following four priority areas for action toward achieving its goal.

  • Develop a universal preschool feasibility plan and address facilities needs countywide
  • Implement a quality improvement rating system: Quality Counts, Sonoma County’s Quality Improvement Rating System
  • Implement an early literacy campaign: iREAD
  • Implement a common kindergarten readiness assessment: READY

CCPC-Identified Categories of Need
Geographic Areas in Need of Support

  • First 5 Sonoma County has developed a Focus Schools List. These schools were determined and ranked according to the new Local Control Funding Formula guidelines: unduplicated count of English learners, free and reduced lunch eligible (proxy measure for low income), and /or foster youth. First 5’s Focus School list is a tool used to educate the community and funders about school attendance areas with the highest degree of need for investment in early childhood programs and services. Click here for the Focus Schools list.
  • A Portrait of Sonoma (Sonoma County Human Development Report 2014, County of Sonoma Department of Health Services) addresses Place-Based Interventions. “In Sonoma County, the census tracts with the lowest scores should be the focus of a place-based approach to improving people’s wellbeing. Index results suggest that these areas, many of which comprise contiguous census tracts, would benefit from a place-based approach: 1) Southwest and Southeast Santa Rosa, 2) Northwest Santa Rosa, 3) The Springs, and 4) East Cloverdale.”

ECE Components in Need of Investments

  • Facilities: Support and funding for locating/reconfiguring and/or construction of suitable buildings
  • Quality Rating Improvement System: Expansion of existing formative efforts to build a county-wide infrastructure and broad implementation
  • Funding for ECE subsidies for low and middle income families: Annual costs to provide ECE for children from eligible families
  • Creation and support for a Sonoma County Children’s Funding Initiative: Development of a local dedicated funding stream for children’s services
  • Services for children with special needs: Enhance services and staffing to meet individual needs of children with disabilities and special learning needs
  • Family engagement: Enhance ECE programs abilities to provide authentic opportunities to engage parents as partners
  • Professional development: Support for ECE workforce educational/degree attainment and continuing education
  • Workforce wages: Support to provide livable wages commensurate with other professionals with comparable education and skills

How to Invest in ECE in Sonoma County

Upstream Investments Policy
This policy, sponsored by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and widely supported throughout the community, seeks to eliminate poverty in Sonoma County and ensure equal opportunity for quality education and good health in nurturing home and community environments. Click here for information about Upstream Investments.

Upstream LogoPortfolio of Model Upstream Programs
The goal of the Portfolio of Model Upstream Programs is to be a comprehensive portfolio of outcomes- and evidence-based upstream programs throughout Sonoma County. The portfolio has many benefits, and includes current and planned County and community programs that reflect upstream principles. This Portfolio is important because it expands community-wide capacity to identify, implement, and fund evidence-based upstream programs. To find outcomes- and evidence-based upstream ECE programs listed on the Portfolio, see upstreaminvestments.org/html/programs.htm.


How to Find Sonoma County ECE Programs
Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies maintain information about Sonoma County licensed early education preschools and centers, licensed Family Child Care Homes, and license-exempt centers. There are 2 agencies in Sonoma County:

  • Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County (4Cs) – (707) 544-3077, www.sonoma4Cs.org
  • River to Coast Children’s Services (RCCS), serving west Sonoma County – (707) 869-3613, www.rccservices.org

2-1-1 Sonoma is an information and referral call center that can provide information about other agencies and services in Sonoma County that support ECE. Call 211 or 707-565-2108 or Toll Free 800-325-9604.

Other Important Ways to Invest in ECE
—Be a champion for public investments in early childhood education.
—Invest your resources in early childhood education programs in your neighborhood.