The pandemic has proved in the starkest of terms the importance of childcare and preschool programs. Working parents have overnight found their childcare upended as capacity and hours shrunk or facilities closed all together. Nationally, nearly three million women have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic, many to care for their children.

As the mother of a toddler and a baby who was born during the pandemic, and a leader in the nation’s second largest school district, I know these challenges firsthand; while I am privileged enough to have access to relatively stable care, my colleagues and constituents have seen me juggle caring for my two young children while working as a school board member.

The reality is that access to high-quality, affordable early childhood programs in Los Angeles was woefully inadequate prior to the pandemic — Covid-19 highlighted those gaps in starker relief as more families faced impossible choices.

The pandemic has brought to bear the systemic inequities faced by the communities we serve on a daily basis. Working-class families are experiencing exacerbated food insecurity, housing insecurity, job and income loss, high rates of illness and death from Covid, and a child care crisis.

As we recover from this pandemic, we cannot simply return to the normal of March 2020 — true recovery requires addressing the inequitable conditions that allowed the pandemic to be so disproportionately devastating to certain communities.

Now is the time to invest in effective strategies that promise transformative impacts, especially for our most vulnerable families. Now is the time for universal high-quality preschool in Los Angeles.

Last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted to provide universal preschool for every child in Los Angeles by 2024, leveraging our school-based programs and working hand-in-hand with nonprofit and home providers. More immediately, the effort will leverage pandemic relief funds to expand its current early childhood education offerings to serve even more of its earliest learners next fall. In California alone, $26.4 billion dollars have been allocated to schools for the effort.

As school districts are receiving unprecedented funding from the federal government to reopen schools and support students in the long-term recovery from the pandemic, expanding preschool offerings for our highest-needs children is one of the best investments we can make.

Read the full article about investing in universal pre-school by Kelly Gonez at EdSource.