Pending sequestration may affect California’s Head Start program

By Sarah Politis

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Pending federal cuts as part of the March sequestration will affect many federal programs. Head Start, a federally-funded preschool for low-income families is one of those programs facing budget cuts.

While there are thousands of children who are part of the program, Philipa Johnson, Interim Director for the Head Start Program at USC said there are 577 children and families in the USC program alone. image

“We’re addressing a need in the community which is to provide quality services to families and high quality education to children from birth to age 5,” Johnson said.

While there is nothing on paper to confirm the sequestor, Johnson is preparing for a five percent cut in funding. Johnson said these cuts would result in personnel cuts and limit the budget for student field trips.

According to a press release from Rick Mockler, the Executive Director of Head Star, an estimated 27,000 children and their families will be dropped from the program in California and about 6,000 staff members will lose their jobs.

“I don’t see where it will impact the children because we will still provide the health services, the educational services, services to children with disabilities,” Johnson said, “We’ll still provide food, nutritional serevices, we will continue providing services, so I don’t really see that, that’s really the framework of the Head Start program.”

However, Head Start isn’t the only federal program on the chopping block. Defense workers and national parks also face cuts.

South LA teacher learns Spanish to help students

By Jennifer Quinonez

image“This is how you wrap the baby, so she stays warm,” said Preschool Teacher Reshon Moutra recently, as she gently held a doll while giving an impromptu life experience lesson to three preschoolers.

“She needs milk too,” said excited four-year-old student, Emmy, as she pitched in during free playtime at Moffett State Preschool in Lennox.

Teaching children self-help skills and more comes naturally to Moutra, who is in her second year as the preschool lead teacher. Yet, surprisingly, teaching wasn’t her first choice.

“I used to dream of being an obstetrician/gynecologist and delivering babies,“ Moutra said. “I was pre-med at Fresno State, but after my first semester, I found out that medicine was not my thing, and I didn’t know what to do.”

Fortunately for Moutra, crossing paths with a group of children on her college campus forever changed her life. Feeling frustrated after a particularly challenging class, she saw preschoolers taking a nature walk.

image“They all began to wave and speak to me and instantly, and I felt my mood change from sad to happy,” said Moutra. “It was as if a light bulb illuminated. I called my mom right away and told her, ‘Mama, I know what I want to be! I want to be a preschool teacher,’ and I never looked back.”

Moutra, who was born in Compton and later raised in Carson, says she is thrilled to work in Lennox, near her old hometown and in a career that helps children at the beginning of their educational path.

She says she has faced many personal and professional challenges in her position as a teacher, but tackles them with the same inspiration and passion that she felt back in college.

“Over the last few years, my biggest challenge was finishing my Master’s degree with a newborn baby, and juggling a new job in a community that is predominantly Spanish speaking,“ continued Moutra. “Most of the children and parents I serve are only Spanish speaking, but I am determined to become fluent.”

Nellie Para-Rios, director of Lennox State Preschool, says she can’t say enough about Moutra’s dedication.

image“We’re so impressed that Reshon is working on her Spanish skills,” she said. “As she grapples with a second language, she can better empathize and support her students,” said Para-Rios. “Her expertise is in knowing that expressive language has a timeline, so she relies on the five senses, routines, visuals and gestures to promote communication. When children see her attempt, then they are more apt to do so as well while they learn English.”

For Moutra, being part of the whole early care and educational experience has been worthwhile, because as she states, her work is making a difference in the lives of the four-year-olds now in her care, and for the community at large.

“Having these kids come to school every day, I see first-hand how fast they pick up everything from new English language skills, to literacy, math, creativity and more,” said Moutra. “I know that by being here, they are becoming better prepared for their future and I am honored to have a big part in that path.”

Please visit or 866-675-5400 for more information about enrolling your child in a high-quality preschool program in Los Angeles County.

New teaching techniques may help preschoolers

imageBy Jennifer Quinonez

Faaidah Ameen teaches preschool to dozens of children out of her Compton home. She has done so for more than 20 years. “These kids can learn so much in preschool to help them get ready for kindergarten, and it’s my job to help them with their social skills, reading skills and more.”

Although she has been in the early care and education field for more than two decades, Ameen says it’s never too late to learn new techniques to help children with their growth.

“I’m open to new changes, and the opportunity that LAUP is giving me is helping me understand more about my role as a teacher, and changing my habits and behavior to be better with the kids,” says Ameen.

Ameen is referring to Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) and the non-profit’s goal of improving their quality assessment program to give children a top-notch quality early education.

Since 2005, LAUP has used a 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to ensure high standards at the more than 320 preschools in its network throughout Los Angeles County.

But now, the organization has decided to build on the QRIS by introducing a new measurement tool called CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System).

imageCLASS is an observational evaluation that focuses on effective teaching and interactions, helping educators recognize the power of their own one-on-one connection with students. It’s based on research that indicates that interaction between children and adults is the most important relationship for development and learning.

“Our children deserve the best so that they can become creative, critical thinkers who are engaged and excited about learning for the rest of their lives,” said Alexandra Himmel, program support supervisor at LAUP.

Studies show that children in classrooms with better CLASS scores achieve at higher levels than their peers in classrooms with lower CLASS scores.

Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, each LAUP-funded preschool will be observed and evaluated by trained and certified CLASS assessors who will examine all teachers and their interactions with children (and each other) in the classroom.

“We all need a deeper understanding of how our actions and behaviors impact a child’s long-term success,“ says Himmel. “It’s about changing our classroom habits so we can be more intentional and strategic as teachers. Asking a question like, ‘How did you figure that out?’ creates a whole different kind of learning opportunity for our children.”

imageThe goal of the CLASS is to encourage positive teacher-student interactions in a well-managed environment, where a teacher provides ongoing supportive feedback, along with frequent learning activities that foster language and concept development.

“We are proud of the providers in our network who continue to strive for the best training, education and new teaching techniques to help children with their social, emotional and academic skills,” says Celia C. Ayala, Chief Executive Officer of LAUP. “If a child has confidence, it’s more likely that he or she will become a healthy, productive and responsible adult – and that is the ultimate goal for LAUP.”

Research continues to show that children who attend a high-quality preschool receive a rewarding educational experience that is filled with lifetime benefits for the child, as well as society in the form of a better workforce and lower rates of crime and health issues.

Please visit or call 866-675-5400 for more information.

OPINION: The economic impact of preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageWith more than 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is one of the most heavily populated counties in America. There are more than 155,000 four-year-old children living here, and yet only about 70,000 licensed preschool spaces are even accessible. Since about half of the children in this area are missing out on a preschool education and possibly starting elementary school behind their peers, Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) is working to provide high-quality, free or low-cost preschool to thousands of children who need it most — but we can’t do it alone.

Business leaders, taxpayers and elected officials need to take a look at preschool as a smart business investment because preschool has proven to help close the achievement gap among children entering kindergarten, as well as combat high crime rates and a sagging economy.

According to a Rand Corporation study, RAND researchers estimated that “a high-quality, one-year, voluntary, universal preschool program in California could generate for California society $2.62 in benefits for every dollar of cost.” The study found that for each annual cohort of four-year-olds (approximately 550,000 children), California would receive an estimated $2.7 billion in “present-value net benefits.”

The positive economic impact of investing in Pre-K services is also significantly felt here in Los Angeles County. The Center for Community Economic Development released a report that says the early care and education (ECE) industry is a crucial element in strengthening and sustaining Los Angeles County’s economy. For instance:

• The early child care and education (ECE) industry generates $1.9 billion dollars annually in Los Angeles County
• The ECE industry is expected to generate the sixth highest number of new jobs between 2006 and 2016 of all industries in Los Angeles County
• The ECE Industry currently employs 65,000 people in full-time jobs
• Benefits all industries in the county by enabling parents to work and attend job training/education programs to upgrade skills
• The ECE industry supports the employment of thousands of families whose earnings are estimated at more than $22 billion.

It’s clear that investing in the early care and education industry is a wise investment not only for taxpayers, but for the proper care and development of our children and the future of Los Angeles County. For more information, please contact Jennifer Quinonez at LAUP at 213-416-1838 or email [email protected].

OPINION: Good habits begin in preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageFour-year-old Farid eagerly grabs his father’s hand and leads him into the colorful preschool classroom as fast as he can.

“Baba, ehna lazem nimshi. El madrasa hatebtedi!” Farid, who only speaks Arabic, excitedly had just said: “Daddy, it’s time to go, school will start soon!”

“My son is very excited about school,” said Farid’s father Anton Gendry. “In our country [Egypt], we care a lot about school. Now that we live here in the United States, I want him to go to school and learn English. My wife and I know we have to bring him here every day so he learns.”

Creating good habits like attending preschool regularly and on-time is vital to a child’s healthy development. According to research, a child’s attendance habit constitutes a direct link to his or her overall academic success – or failure.

“Consistent attendance is critical, because the curriculum builds and there’s a pattern to it,” said Los Angeles Universal Preschool Program Director Nonie Smith. “If a child comes and goes irregularly, there’s going to be a learning gap.”

Studies show that regular attendance in a high-quality early education program can boost literacy and social skills, as well as better prepare children for their future.

“Four-year-olds need to know what to expect, they need a routine,” added Smith. “It’s traumatic for a child to have inconsistency in their life. Security for a preschooler is imperative for their brain to be open to learning.”

Once a child enters elementary school, there’s even more reason for parents to take attendance seriously.

“We monitor attendance very carefully at the elementary level because we have a very rigorous pace, and every day, a teacher has to follow a daily map to ensure the curriculum is covered,” said Principal Kathy Carbajao. “The academic program is so thorough, that if a child is absent or tardy, they fall dramatically behind.”

For parents like Victoria Miranda, making the effort to teach her two children the importance of attending school regularly has already paid off.

“My fifth-grader won two awards this month for math and language and she gets them every year,” said Miranda. “She has confidence and loves school. Our preschooler is now following in her footsteps.”

Please visit or 1-866-675-5400 for more information about enrolling your child in a high-quality preschool program in Los Angeles County.

Read more on this topic:
Preschool Cool: the benefits of preschool

OPINION: The benefits of preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageIt’s been proven that the most important years of your child’s development is the first five years of life. That’s because their brain is constantly making connections and in the brain of a four-year-old, a thousand trillion connections are active – twice as much as an adult’s!

So for parents, it’s crucial that they take an active role in their child’s development, and help their child make the right kind of healthy connections to develop their brain power. One way to do this is by choosing a high-quality preschool program.

There are countless benefits to having a child attend preschool. Studies show that children attending a high-quality program significantly enhance their critical thinking; problem-solving and social skills that are needed to succeed in kindergarten and life. Research also shows that children who are attend preschool are more likely to read proficiently by third grade, less likely to drop out of high school or have a teen pregnancy, less likely to become involved in violent crime and more likely to go to college.

According to the RAND report, “Who Is Ahead and Who Is Behind?:Gaps in School Readiness and Student Achievement in the Early Grades for California’s Children”, African American and Hispanic students have lower levels of proficiency in some academic measures than Caucasian and Asian students. Preschool, however, appears to be a promising strategy for narrowing achievement differences.

Additional studies show that parental involvement in their child’s education is the key to their little one becoming successful in kindergarten and beyond. Experts say parents and caregivers should spend at least 20 minutes a day of quality time with their children by engaging their kids in conversations to improve their language and social skills. By doing these activities, along with spending time playing outdoors and reading books together, a child’s self confidence will increase significantly.

Los Angeles Universal Preschool, also known as LAUP (, is a great choice for a high-quality preschool education. The non-profit organization has developed a 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System that ensures the 4-year-olds of Los Angeles County are receiving a top educational pre kindergarten experience. LAUP preschools give parents the right to choose whether they prefer a home-based, faith-based or center-based learning environment for their child.

LAUP is a non-profit organization providing a high-quality preschool education at little or no charge to the children of Los Angeles County. The reason LAUP was first established in 2004 was because of the critical need to educate children and get them ready for kindergarten. LAUP programs provide children with a safe and nurturing learning environment and give children the tools they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. LAUP programs serve more than 10,000 children per year in 325 preschools throughout Los Angeles County.

To enroll your child in a quality LAUP preschool at little or no charge, please call 1-866-675-5400 or visit