CSULB receives $11M gift from Ballmer Group to credential early childhood teachers

Published August 23, 2023

Cal State Long Beach has received an $11 million gift from Ballmer Group, a transformational investment that will enable the university to credential early childhood educators and prepare generations of school children for kindergarten. It is the largest gift received for programs in the university’s College of Education.

In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that by 2025, nearly 400,000 4-year-olds would be enrolled in transitional kindergarten – launching what is expected to become the largest universal preschool program in the country. 

CSULB is joining California’s commitment to universal preschool and professionalizing the early childcare workforce – primarily women of color who earn, on average, lower wages. 

“We are excited to partner with Ballmer Group in preparing teachers for high-quality prekindergarten to all 4-year-old children in the State of California,” said Anna Ortiz, dean of the College of Education at CSULB. “The gift will enable us to provide meaningful financial support to current early childhood educators, so they are ready to enter our elementary schools. It also offers a pathway for the excellent employment opportunities our public schools provide. The gift will also support the development of the PK-3 credential, giving all students at CSULB an additional career option in education. We are grateful for Ballmer’s generous support.” 

Most of the funds (80%) will support scholarships for students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in child development or for elementary-credentialed teachers focused on teaching prekindergarten. The rest will go toward developing the PK-3 (ECE) Specialist Instructional Credential, which will include advising and recruiting new and current student educators, creating an infrastructure in the College of Education, and creating partnerships with local school districts and community colleges. 

The work will also help diversify the teaching profession in Southern California, ensuring young children are instructed by teachers who share their cultural and lived experiences, Ortiz added.

Teacher showing young student a book
The $11 million gift will enable CSULB to provide financial support to early childhood educators, which will prepare them to enter elementary school classrooms.

Connie and Steve Ballmer co-founded Ballmer Group in 2015 to focus on improving economic mobility and opportunity for children and families in the United States, who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty. Ballmer Group directs its philanthropy to help ensure that a person thrives through a healthy birth and stable family, a safe childhood and adolescence, a good education, and a career that can support a family. 

Ballmer Group’s gift to The Beach was paired with a grant of $22 million to Cal State Dominguez Hills to support similar programs on that campus. 

In partnership with Ballmer Group, CSULB and CSUDH are leading the way to close this early childhood teacher gap through the development of PK-3 early childhood teachers who are culturally competent and racially diverse and placing them across L.A. County.

Ballmer Group leaders said they are excited for this unique partnership of government and philanthropy to increase the number of credentialed early childhood teachers who will gain opportunities for better jobs and children who will be taught by educators who share their cultural and lived experiences.

“Early education is a game-changer for giving kids a fair shot in school and life," said Kim Pattillo Brownson, director of Strategy and Policy at Ballmer Group. “Teachers are vital to this work, and CSUDH and CSULB will now be able to support LA’s future early educators through scholarships, degree programs and partnerships to support our children’s learning.” 

Such an investment also supports The Beach’s objective of shaping California's future workforce, one of the priorities of the university’s No Barriers comprehensive fundraising campaign.

“Cal State Long Beach is grateful for the generous support of Ballmer Group,” said President Jane Close Conoley. “Through their acknowledgement of our efforts, we will be able to prepare a critical mass of high-quality, credentialed early childhood teachers.

"This funding will allow us to lay the foundation for the academic success of early learners entering our public schools, professionalize the work of early childhood educators and diversify the region’s pool of teachers. Thanks to Ballmer Group, CSULB will play a vital role in meeting the urgent need for credentialed prekindergarten teachers.”