State Democratic leaders are sponsoring a bill that would increase funding for child care programs, which lost about $1 billion during the recession.
Although the 2014-15 budget restored more than 14,000 full- and part-time slots for the state preschool program, which serves 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families, there has been a loss in funding for state child-care vouchers for low-income parents. These vouchers can be used at centers or homes that meet health and safety standards but don’t necessarily have the education component required of state preschools.
“Strengthening our child care system is a priority for the growth of our economy and offers a ladder of economic opportunity for parents in low-wage jobs,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León in a statement. “Safe and reliable child care allows low-income families to work and to provide for their children.”
De León said that less than one in 10 eligible infants and toddlers are able to access subsidized child care, and that child care expenses can comprise 14 to 44 percent of a family’s budget.
Claire Conlon, a legislative aide to de León, said the number of vouchers that would be funded and the cost of the proposed legislation has not yet been determined.
“We’re trying to make a realistic assessment of what we have in terms of resources and what the May Revise budget proposal (from the governor) will look like,” Conlon said.
The proposal would also:
- Extend collective bargaining rights to child care providers so they can advocate for improvements in child care quality and costs. They currently cannot organize into a union because they are not employees.
- Establish a training partnership between the state and a provider organization that would identify gaps in training and education and recommend collaborations and strategies to improve quality.
- Authorize a study of best practices for parent engagement to better understand how to support parents.