Economic Development Collaborative Granted Funding from Ventura County Community Foundation to Advance Isabella Project

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Assessing the Disruption, Investing in Adaptation and Resilience, Anticipating the Impacts of Transitioning to Universal Pre-K (UPK)

SANTA PAULA, Calif. – The Economic Development Collaborative (EDC) has been granted first-year funding by the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) to advance the Isabella Project. With the impending implementation of Universal Pre-K (UPK) in California, the funding will be instrumental in addressing potential disruptions faced by early childhood education (ECE) providers and fostering resilience during this transition.

California’s implementation of UPK over the next several years with full implementation by 2025-26 will ensure all children who turn four years old by September 1 of a given school year are provided free access to a Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program from their local school district. While UPK expands equal access to quality education, it is also expected to be disruptive to the business model of Early Child Education programs currently serving this four-year-old population. The extension simultaneously presents an opportunity to meet the needs of the underserved infant to three-year-old population. This disruption may be significant for all provider businesses, but most especially to the less well-resourced home-based providers.

The Isabella Project is a groundbreaking pilot project striving to make top-tier early childhood education accessible to all 3- to 4-year-olds in Santa Paula. The project is planned to act as a model for creating a network of wrap-around care that can be replicated in cities across the county. This critical first-year funding will enable EDC and the Isabella Project to implement a comprehensive strategy aimed at studying, preparing for, organizing and responding to both the impacts and benefits of transitioning to UPK in Santa Paula.

“We are elated by VCCF’s generous funding approval, which will allow us to make a profound difference in the lives of children and families in Santa Paula,” said Bruce Stenslie, EDC President & CEO. “With this funding, we will be able to equip our ECE providers with the resources and tools they need to navigate the UPK transition successfully, ensuring the highest quality care and access for young children and families in the community.”

The first-year funding will support the launch of a comprehensive outreach and assessment program, empowering ECE providers in Santa Paula to identify their specific needs and challenges. Additionally, the creation of an ECE Network will foster collaboration among center-based programs and family child care providers, enabling the coordination of efforts to better meet families’ requirements.

“This project has the opportunity to engage both public and community-based programs and create an inclusive system of early care and education for all in Ventura County. As a collective, we are working to create the network of support needed to ensure providers remain a vital part of Ventura County’s infrastructure,” said Petra Puls, Executive Director of First 5 Ventura County.

One of the key components of the proposal is providing direct technical assistance to ECE providers from the existing ECE Taskforce, comprised of EDC, Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE), Child Development Resources (CDR) and First 5 Ventura County. Expert business advisors from the EDC, Quality Coaches from VCOE and representatives from CDR and First 5 will engage with each childcare provider to address their identified needs and offer tailored support for adaptation and resilience.

“The collective partnership of the ECE Taskforce creates a wealth of knowledge and data that allows us to address all aspects of UPK,” said Jack Hinojosa, CEO of Child Development Resources (CDR). “This is an opportunity for us as a team to study and respond to the needs of families and providers alike transitioning to UPK, and to strengthen support of offering a mixed delivery system in Santa Paula to preserve parent choice and streamline funding,” said Hinojosa.

Moreover, the proposal includes the establishment of a Forgivable Loan Fund. This fund, managed jointly by EDC and the ECE Taskforce, will offer financial assistance of up to $30,000 for home-based providers and potentially larger amounts for centers. Grants and loans will be utilized for essential site modifications and other necessary expenses, with the commitment of full forgiveness upon maintaining business operations for at least four years.

“This project empowers the mixed delivery system and predominately underpaid ECE workforce, comprised largely of women of color who closely represent the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the children/families they serve, to adapt and sustain their operations. We are proud to join our ECE Taskforce partners and VCCF for this important initiative in Santa Paula.” Said Alicia McFarland, Director of Early Childhood Programs at VCOE.

The initiative, set to launch immediately, aims to complete its initial outreach and assessment phase by early Fall 2023, with technical assistance to providers commencing shortly thereafter. EDC, VCOE, CDR, First 5, VCCF and the Isabella Project look forward to working hand in hand to make a lasting, positive impact on the lives of Santa Paula’s young children and their families.

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact the EDC’s Communications & Marketing Manager, Tracie Schneider, at


About Economic Development Collaborative

A private nonprofit, the Economic Development Collaborative was founded in 1996 with funding from the County of Ventura, the 10 cities in the county and key private-sector companies to provide a pathway to business growth, economic prosperity and high quality of life for all.

Today, in partnership with the Small Business Development Center, the EDC is a regional asset for economic vitality in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, giving businesses, community partners and civic leaders the resources they need to succeed. By leveraging public and private funds, the EDC has become a key player in delivering business consulting, funding and strategic initiatives that support the region.

About Ventura County Community Foundation

The Ventura County Community Foundation has focused on fostering philanthropy in our region and collaboratively working together to solve our community’s most pressing challenges since 1987.

With the help of more than 22,000 generous donors, VCCF has granted over $111 million since 2015, supporting local nonprofits, businesses, and students through strategic grantmaking and VCCF’s scholarship program. VCCF’s Philanthropic Consulting Office helps individuals and businesses develop impactful giving strategies, reduce taxes, and create lasting legacies. VCCF collaborates with a wide network to address community challenges and opportunities, including advancing highest-quality early childhood education for all.

About Isabella Project

In Ventura County, there are more than 22,000 children aged 3 to 4 who are eligible for early childhood education. Unfortunately, more than 12,000 of our community’s children cannot access this crucial opportunity.

Santa Paula serves as an excellent example of how we can establish a high-quality early childhood education system by utilizing existing government entitlements along with philanthropic support. We believe that Santa Paula has a unique opportunity to become the first community in California where every child, 100%, can have access to top-notch full-time early childhood education. This pilot program, named after Isabella, a little girl born sixteen months ago at the beginning of this community initiative, is the first step toward a larger effort to ensure that all children in Ventura County can benefit from the most effective anti-poverty strategy: education.


Read the press release on the EDC website.

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