Ninety percent of your child’s brain develops during the first five years of life.
Every experience in children’s earliest years has an impact on their success in school and the rest of their life. That is why it is so important for children to have high quality care and education during this time. Quality early care and education helps families and supports children’s cognitive, physical, and social and emotional growth. It helps children be ready for kindergarten and beyond.
The Office of Early Care & Education (OECE) manages federal, state, and local funding, as well as some foundation support, to provide financial assistance to eligible families to help them pay for early care and education.
You can learn more about our programs below. To get started finding an early care and education program, or to learn more about your financial assistance options, please contact one of our partners: Children’s Council of San Francisco and Wu Yee Children’s Services.
How can I find affordable quality early care and education?
Early Learning SF is an easy-to-use, mobile-friendly website that helps families find quality early care and education programs. Early Learning SF is available in English, Chinese and Spanish.
When you answer a few questions about your family, income, and the kind of program you need, the website will identify early care and education programs. You can review information about the programs and connect directly with staff from the programs to select the best program for your family. If you qualify for financial assistance based on your income, the website will notify you through a text message or email and provide further instructions.
You can also speak to someone in person. Our partners are available to help you:
- Wu Yee Children’s Services: 1-844-644-4300 (multilingual staff available)
- Children’s Council of SF: 415-343-3300 (multilingual staff available)
- Compass Family Services: 415-644-0504 (for homeless families only)
How much does early care and education cost?
For many state- and federally-funded preschools (i.e., State Preschool, Head Start), programs are free or of minimal cost to families. For private or public programs serving tuition-based children, the cost could be partially or completely subsidized, depending on the need and eligibility of a family.
In San Francisco, all families regardless of income may be required to pay some amount of their preschool costs. If a child is enrolled in the Preschool for All Tuition Credit program, the family will need to pay the difference between the cost of tuition and the Tuition Credit they receive – which is $4,208 annually and is funded by OECE. Learn more about Preschool for All below.
If a child is enrolled in OECE’s Early Learning Scholarship, they may need to pay a family fee, which is determined by income and family size. Some families who may be very low income, are homeless, or are involved in the child welfare system do not pay a family fee. For more details on the family fee schedule, click here. Parents/guardians should directly contact the preschools they are interested in to learn more about their preschool costs (i.e., tuition rates, application fees, etc.). The Family Fee schedule does not apply to families enrolled in the Preschool For All Tuition Credit program. Learn more about the Early Learning Scholarship below.
What is the Early Learning Scholarship (ELS)?
San Francisco families with children 0-5 years old who are eligible for the Early Learning Scholarship receive financial assistance to pay for quality early care and education.
More than 320 Early Care and Education Centers and Family Child Care Homes across San Francisco have been qualified to participate in ELS. Participating programs prioritize quality and continuity of care, support the early childhood education workforce, and help ensure that San Francisco’s youngest children have access to high-quality early care and education. You can find a complete list of ELS qualified providers by clicking HERE.
To learn more about the ELS, contact:
445 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Resource and Referral Line: 415.343.3300
Family and Provider Services
880 Clay St., Floor 3
San Francisco, CA 94108
Resource and Referral Line: 844.644.4300
Has your program asked you to complete forms related to the ELS? Click here to download ELS participant forms.
What is the Preschool For All Tuition Credit Program?
The Preschool for All Tuition Credit (PFA) program is open to all families regardless of need or income at preschools that partner with the Office of Early Care & Education, subject to funding availability. PFA helps us provide universal access to preschool to all 4-year-olds in San Francisco.
Participating families can get:
- Reduced-cost or free half-day preschool (depending on the setting, Center or FCC) for up to 3.5 hours a day at a participating preschool
- A tuition rebate to help reduce preschool costs for a full day of programming
To be eligible for PFA, families must live in San Francisco and children must turn 4 on or before December 2nd of the year they will be enrolled. While the program is not designed for kindergarten-aged children, exceptions are made for children with documented special needs or who require an extra year of preschool.
Applying for PFA
The program is offered at preschools that partner with the Office of Early Care & Education. Participating PFA preschools have limited slots. It is recommended that you locate a school, apply, and enroll when your child is still 3 for the best chances of obtaining a spot. Click here for a list of preschools that partner with the Office of Early Care & Education.
Parents/guardians should apply directly with their preschool of interest, as each program has its own unique application process and enrollment timeline. The preschool will let you know if they have open tuition credit slots. If you’re able to secure a spot for your child, the preschool’s administrative staff will guide you through the PFA enrollment process – they’ll handle the paperwork.
Additionally, SFUSD offers PFA at many of their preschool sites. For more information on PFA at SFUSD sites please contact:
SFUSD Educational Placement Center
555 Franklin Street, Room 100
San Francisco, CA 94102
Have more questions? Resource & Referral agencies counsel parents about early care and education options, offer educational materials on how to select high-quality care, and provide parents with referrals to quality licensed early care facilities. Give them a call to learn more about the Preschool For All Tuition Credit program and other general preschool information.
- Children’s Council (Spanish bilingual) – 415-343-3300
- Wu Yee Children’s Services (Chinese bilingual) – 844-644-4300
Has your program asked you to complete forms related to the PFA program? Click here to download PFA participant forms.
How can I advocate in support of quality early care and education?
There are many people in San Francisco speaking up on behalf of children and quality early learning. The voice of parents is much needed and welcomed in our efforts to advocate and we have listed some ways to you to get involved.
The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meets six times per year and consists of nine members appointed by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. CAC must include a parent or guardian of a child who is enrolled in a facility that provides early care and education services, which includes child care, early care, preschool, and infant and toddler care. If you are interested in applying for a seat on the CAC please click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page for more information.
Parent Voices is a statewide organization supporting parent efforts to take action on local, statewide, and national issues related to making high-quality early care and education affordable and accessible to all families. If you are interested in being a parent advocate or simply learning more about their work connect with them:
California Child Care Resource and Referral Network
111 new Montgomery Street, 7th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
Children’s Council San Francisco
445 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94114