Hundreds of organizations and businesses in California called this week for major new statewide investments in childcare and early education, part of an organized campaign opposing Gov. Jerry Brown’s early education spending proposal.
The request was in the form of a letter from nearly 500 organizations, including small childcare providers, dance studios, First 5 agencies from several counties, law firms, a winery, faith-based community groups and dozens of advocates for children and early education.
“At a minimum we have to start to level the playing field and make sure that everyone enters kindergarten prepared,” said Lenny Mendonca, founder Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and chairman of Children Now’s board of directors.
The letter – addressed to the Brown administration, the California Department of Finance and legislative leaders – backs a request by the Legislative Women’s Caucus for $800 million in new state spending on California’s childcare system. It also asks the state to increase reimbursement rates for early care and education providers and add additional childcare slots; and it urges rules that would allow families to qualify once every 12 months for state-funded childcare and preschool services, rather than having to repeatedly prove their eligibility.
“If you care about the future workforce and about ensuring there is a population that has an opportunity, the smartest investment you can do is to do it sooner rather than later,” said Lenny Mendonca, founder of Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, one of the organizations that put its name on the letter. Mendonca is also chairman of the Children Now board of directors. The advocacy organization coordinated the letter, the latest lobbying effort in a campaign underway since Brown proposed his childcare and early education budget in January.
“At a minimum we have to start to level the playing field and make sure that everyone enters kindergarten prepared,” Mendonca said.
The letter is one prong in a political strategy that involves face-to-face and telephone lobbying of state legislators.
“As we speak, people are walking the halls with this letter and a number of groups will be putting in calls, so it’s a full-scale effort,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now.
Brown’s budget proposed no new spending on childcare and early education and effectively eliminated transitional kindergarten by combining that program’s funding and state preschool funding into a one $1.6 billion block grant. Brown says his proposal would more effectively direct spending toward low-income children. The May revision to the 2016-17 state budget was unchanged from January, despite months of lobbying by advocates.
Advocates say Brown’s proposal would shortchange children, place an already underfunded system under even greater strain, and put private providers at risk of going out of business. They pressed that argument in this week’s letter.
“It is clear that the LWC (Legislative Women’s Caucus) proposal better supports the immediate and longer term needs of working families and children while valuing providers and community-based programs proven to lift families from poverty,” said the letter.
Lempert said that the process of composing the letter and rallying its supporters started before the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance – which rejected the governor’s proposal – offered its own plan, $619 million in new spending that would preserve and expand transitional kindergarten as well as the state preschool program. The letter, he said, can effectively be seen as an endorsement of the subcommittee’s proposal.
“The practical impact of this letter now is saying, ‘Go with the Assembly version. It’s closer to what we want. It’s certainly better than the May revise,’” Lempert said.