Early education advocates in California were hoping for
increases in preschool and child care funding in the governor’s revised budget, released Tuesday. No such luck.
“The governor talks a lot about educational equity and equality of opportunity,” said Scott Moore, policy analyst for the early education advocacy group Early Edge California. “He is really missing the boat when it comes to preschool.”
The funding change that is most likely to affect a child under 5 next year is the proposed decrease to funding for a child care program known as CalWorks 3. This program for the children of the working poor is meant to help parents keep their jobs by providing child care for young children and after-school care for children up to age 12. That program would operate on $4.4 million less next year than it is in the current year if the governor’s revised budget is adopted, according to Rachel Ehlers at the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Funding for state preschool, a program for children from families making under 200 percent of the poverty level – $47,100 a year for a family of four – stayed nearly flat under the governor’s proposal. So too did funding for general subsidized child care. Instead of the small, almost negligible, decreases contained in the governor’s January budget proposal, the May revision contains small, almost negligible increases. The changes are the result of a new estimate of the number of children under age 5 who are expected to live in the state in the next fiscal year.
Ehlers warned there may be more to come. Cuts to child care and preschool due to federal sequestration do not appear to be reflected in the May revision, she said.
“Sequestration will result in additional reductions to some child care program” or programs, Ehlers said. The question, she said, is how and where the cut will be applied across the state’s several child care and education programs.
Governor Jerry Brown did not mention early childhood education in his remarks Tuesday about the release of the revised budget, choosing instead to focus on his Local Control Funding Formula for K-12 education. The formula is meant to provide additional funding to schools with a significant number of students living in poverty, learning English and participating in foster care. That priority is on target, said Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Education.
“But if we’re not doing more to help them come to school ready to learn, we’re not maximizing the impact of what we’re doing to help them in K-12,” said Buchanan, D-Alamo.
The one bright spot in the early care and education funding landscape is a complicated bit of budgeting that means that First 5 California will hold on to $25 million of its own money rather than turning it over to the Department of Developmental Services. First 5, a state commission supported by a voter-approved cigarette tax, funds programs across the state focused on improving health and education for children under age 5. The commission has previously complied with many requests to turn over portions of its protected funding stream to the state departments facing cuts.
This spring, the Department of Developmental Services asked First 5 for $40 million to cover costs for a program for infants and 1-year-olds. First 5 agreed to give the department $15 million of its nearly $90 million budget. The May revision provides for the $25 million to go to the Department of Developmental Services directly from the state in lieu of coming from First 5 as previously requested.
“We’re obviously happy to help our partners and anything that’s going to improve the health of children,” age 5 and younger, said Lindsay VanLaningham, spokesperson for First 5 California. “But now, we get to continue funding our programs and priorities here.”