County Office of Education Receives $500,000 Grant to Strengthen Workforce | Education

The Santa Barbara County Office of Education received a $500,000 state grant to help strengthen the county’s early childhood education workforce through professional support.

The grant, known as the California Apprenticeship Initiative, will be used by the county’s Office of Education to help people working – or who want to work – at infant/toddler or preschool sites by helping them follow courses needed to advance their careers.

“The pandemic has shown the importance of accessible, high-quality child care for children and families in Santa Barbara County,” said Bridget Baublits, assistant superintendent of educational services. “Due to a shortage of early childhood educators, our community is challenged to build an experienced, stable and diverse workforce to provide valuable education and care.”

The grant will help fund tuition, fees, and other costs for 25 recipients over a five-year period, and will be bolstered by an additional $100,000 donated by the Santa Barbara Foundation. It will help caregivers to become associate teachers, associate teachers to become teachers, and teachers to become site supervisors by helping with the tuition and fees associated with courses needed to advance their careers.

“This grant aims to give individuals the chance to launch and advance their careers in this critical and rewarding field,” Baublits said. “We provide an innovative solution to the continuing shortage of early education teachers.”

In addition to working to help meet staffing needs throughout the region, the County Education Office’s Early Care and Education program operates 11 preschools and infant centers for low-income families throughout the county and connects families to subsidized child care programs, helping approximately 2,500 children countywide.

The county office is not the only local educational organization facing a shortage of early childhood educators.

Across the state, school districts were required to unveil plans for Universal Transitional Kindergarten, providing full-day services to all 4-year-olds. While the transition will be different from district to district, almost all will require additional early childhood education staff. For example, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District estimates that it will need 62 new staff members by the 2023-24 school year.

According to Jennifer Loftus, director of teaching and learning for the Santa Maria-Bonita School District, state funding should be enough to pay salaries for new staff members, but the obstacle for the district will be to find enough qualified personnel.

To find out more about the County Education Office’s Early Care and Education programme, visit www.sbceo.org/ece.