Preschool for everyone

Move would expand program that advocates credit for making early childhood education more accessible

West Sacramento’s award-winning universal preschool system is trying to reach more children.

Since launching in 2005, the Universal Preschool for West Sacramento, or UP4WS, has seen a steady increase in the number of slots available. The initiative currently boasts 672 preschool openings, available to approximately 750 to 850 children in the city.

But some want the program to expand faster. Two early education proponents asked the West Sacramento City Council to simplify qualifications to allow more home-based childcare providers to participate.

“The inclusion of family childcare homes … is critical for West Sacramento in order to provide enough high-quality preschool spaces,” said Ian Winbrock, manager of Kids’ Home Run, an educational and jobs initiative through the city.

Council members expressed support for the idea, but no specific action was taken last month.

“West Sacramento is unique in being a city that made the recognition, investment and understanding that early learning is the key to changing our education system,” said Early Learning Services Director Justine Jimenez. “Being able to help children to get that love of learning and that ability to problem-solve early on in life is the key to prepare them for life.”

UP4WS’s ultimate goal is for all local children to be able to access preschool. The program won the 2014 City Livability award from the United States Conference of Mayors.

Advocates say graduating from UP4WS facilities give children access to a guaranteed college savings account if they enter kindergarten within the Washington Unified School District. High school students who came through the program and attend WUSD schools can access paid internships. Graduating high school students are able to enroll fee-free for two semesters at Sacramento City College and qualify for scholarships worth up to $1,000.