Despite Governor Jerry Brown’s rhetoric in the budget information released last Monday, it is clear he does not truly hear the concerns of parents and child care providers. What he proposed in January would devastate low income working families and destroy the California child care delivery system that has been built over decades. What he is proposing in May does the same thing.
Perhaps the most significant thing about the Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed revisions to the child care budget he released Monday, May 14th, is that they don’t really represent any ‘revision’. He still proposes to shift all of child care, with the exception of State Preschool, to the county welfare departments, to reduce eligibility for families and to dramatically reduce reimbursement rates paid to child care providers.
And he still views child care as nothing more than a support for working families, totally ignoring the educational benefits of quality child care to young children. Specifics on what the Governor’s so-called ‘revisions’ include:
- Reducing reimbursement rates paid to child care providers even below the reductions proposed in January. He now proposes to reduce rates, which currently allow families to choose from 85% of all child care programs in a county, to a level that would allow them to choose from only 40% of the local child care programs. Or, parents may face having to pay a large co-pay on top of the parent fees already required.
- Establishing a County Child Care Block Grant which would require that the counties spend the money on child care, but gives the counties carte blanche on how much they spend on administration, internal operating expenses and actual child care costs.
- Consolidating the Alternative Payment, Stage 2 and Stage 3 Subsidy Programs and reducing the funding for these programs by 29%. Since only families going off welfare have any entitlement to child care, this will eventually result in those low-income working families who have struggled to stay off of welfare being denied access to child care subsidies.
- Requiring the counties to maintain the Title 5 centers for a minimum of one year. After that, counties will be allowed to reallocate Title 5 center slots to voucher-based providers – including the county itself.
- Allowing the transition of child care to the counties to start as early as the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2012, with additional dollars going to the counties to support the transition. No funds are allocated to cover the costs of closing those programs (mostly non-profit organizations) that would lose funding.
- Allowing parents up to two years of eligibility if they are engaged in education or training.
Redirecting $91.5 million from the proposed elimination of transitional kindergarten (TK) to 1) restore the 10% proposed reduction to the Standard Reimbursement Rate for part-day state preschool programs and 2) expand access to part-day preschool for children from low-income families. Low-income is defined as 200% of the federal poverty level.
- Directing the State Department of Social Services (DSS), in consultation with the State Department of Education (SDE), to develop a plan in 2012-2012 that outlines the quality activities to be funded in 2013-2014. The plan would require that DSS conducts quality activities to promote the health and safety of children in care and SDE would conduct only those activities designed to promote early learning and readiness for school. Thus, the state’s child care quality improvement activities would be bifurcated at the state level between two state departments.
Please stay mindful that these proposals are not intended to replace those made in the Governor’s January Budget – they are in addition to or a modification of those proposals.
Our last hope is the State Legislature. The Assembly has already rejected the Governor’s restructuring proposal, which would dismantle the existing child care system and create a new one within county welfare departments. We need to ask the Assembly to hold fast to that position. The State Senate has yet to take a stand on the restructuring issue. Neither body has addressed the fiscal part of the proposals yet.
Contact your state legislators, tell them what these cuts would mean to you and urge them to REJECT the Governor’s child care proposals.
~ -Kate Ertz-Berger, is the Executive Director of the Contra Costa Child Care Council. For updates on how the Governor’s proposals would impact children, families and child care in Contra Costa County, please subscribe to e-newsletters, connect with the nonprofit Contra Costa Child Care Council on Facebook and Twitter, or visit our website www.cocokids.org.