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As Gov. Gavin Newsom pushes to expand subsidized childcare in California, a new report indicates that the state still has a long way to go to reach a substantial share of its neediest children.

Only 1 in 9 children eligible for subsidized childcare and preschool programs in California were enrolled in a program that provided full-day, year-round care in 2017, according to an analysis by the California Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes how budget and tax policies affect low- and middle-income Californians.

To come up with the number, the center analyzed federal survey data, finding that an estimated 2 million children under 13 were eligible for subsidized care based on income guidelines, but only 228,100 participated in a program that provided care all day and all year.

That number includes children enrolled in full-day preschool programs, after-school programs for older children and vouchers for child care, but excluded about 97,000 children enrolled in half-day preschool programs without access to subsidized child care for the rest of the day.

There is some debate about how best to use state funding to meet the need — whether to place a higher priority on building more facilities and train more teachers to improve quality in state-subsidized childcare centers, or to pay for more subsidies and vouchers for families to use now with any provider they choose.

Kristin Schumacher, an analyst for the California Budget and Policy Center, said Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget, released in January, makes it clear that he has a very strong commitment to serving children and families in California. But she said in addition to laying a foundation for a stronger childcare system in the future, the state needs to help families whose children need care now.

“It’s critical to understand how much it costs to put your kids in childcare and how much of a burden that is,” she said. “The typical single mom in California makes about $32,000 a year. The median cost of care for two kids in a licensed childcare center would take up two out of three pre-tax dollars of her income.”

In his first budget proposal, Newsom included funding for increasing spaces gradually to provide state-subsidized preschool to all low-income 4-year-olds over the next three years, but no money for more subsidies or vouchers for childcare for younger children. Instead, he proposed one-time funding for building more preschool classrooms and training for childcare workers.

Many advocates say both facilities funding and teacher training are crucial to be able to provide more quality childcare in the future.

In the past, some funding allocated by the Legislature for state-subsidized preschool has gone unused, partly because there aren’t enough buildings and teachers.

“You can put a bunch of money for new slots, you can say a lot more families will have access to care, but do we have the spaces? Do we have the teachers or providers to do it?” asked Patricia Lozano, executive director of Early Edge California.

But advocates for low-income families say parents can’t wait for childcare to be available in a few years, because their children need care now.

“There’s a whole age group that is being completely left out of this budget and those are the kids who have been waiting on this list since they were born, most of them,” said Jennifer Greppi, statewide lead chapter organizer for Parent Voices California, a parent-led organization that advocates for more access to affordable childcare.

Parent Voices California and several other organizations are co-sponsoring a bill, AB 194, introduced by Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, which would allocate $1 billion to providing more spaces in state-subsidized childcare centers and vouchers that low-income families can use for any childcare provider they choose, as long as they pass a background check.

“Many of the families we’re talking about have these really unpredictable schedules, so they may be working two or three different jobs on nights and weekends and they have limited opportunities to go to a center-based program,” Greppi said.

AB 194 is one of several bills that have been introduced in the Legislature to expand early childhood programs. A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, AB 167, would provide center and home-based care for 20,000 more infants and toddlers younger than 3 years old. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced three other bills, AB 123, 124 and 125, that seek to expand preschool programs for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds, improve preschool facilities and increase reimbursement rates for preschool teachers.

This post has been corrected. An earlier version stated that AB 167 would expand the Early Head Start program. The bill proposes to encourage more providers to partner with Early Head Start.

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  1. Luz Torre 6 months ago6 months ago

    One of the reasons why funding for preschool is under utilized is because part time preschool does not meet the needs of many low income working families. If parents work the swing shift or even during a regular day, they still have to pay a second provider to care for the kids or to pick them up. Center care is often the preferred choice but operates on a set daytime schedule. Family … Read More

    One of the reasons why funding for preschool is under utilized is because part time preschool does not meet the needs of many low income working families. If parents work the swing shift or even during a regular day, they still have to pay a second provider to care for the kids or to pick them up. Center care is often the preferred choice but operates on a set daytime schedule. Family childcare may allow for some flexibility. Child care vouchers give parents the portability that matches their needs. I have used a variety of child care settings myself. When my daughter was an infant and just started working, I had her in a family child care home. But my first paycheck just went to pay the child care provider, so, my parents offered to take care of her- on another side of the planet. My son was already enrolled in a center care. He was in preschool. I had to pull him out so the two children can be together. Six months later, when I had saved enough, I had the children brought back here and they were enrolled in a child care center because 2 spots opened (and my daughter was no longer a “baby”. Fortunately, I also learned that I qualified for subsidy. When my kids were school-age, their grandma came to stay for good to become my licensed exempt provider. My family fee gradually increased with my income – but, that was ok because it was no more than 10% of my income. Families need that much need support and also pay their fair share as their income increases. Without that support, it is tougher for a mother to transition into the workforce. I was already a stay at home mom for almost 3 years since my son was born. A welfare check is never enough to pay for basic needs let alone rent in San Francisco. Finally, SF voters passed Prop C on June 2018 that would have given more funding to increase access and the earnings of early caregivers and teachers – but, BIG corporate greed got in the way. The legislation is facing a legal challenge from the Howard Jarvis Tax Group of California and the Building Owners and Management Association. Personally, I think the probability of the court deciding in our favor is stronger if Prop C is already implemented. After all, a majority of voters did approve it. The City implemented Healthy San Francisco despite the legal challenge. We should do the same for #BabyPropC.

  2. Kim Kruckel 7 months ago7 months ago

    Thank you for this article. As everyone knows by now, little babies are learning from the moment they arrive in the world. Children that are one, two, three years old are developing the brain power for their future. Their parents have to work. Our youngest children need the most child care, and yet the least help is available to their families. As one parent of two kids, ages three and 6 months told us: "Most days, … Read More

    Thank you for this article. As everyone knows by now, little babies are learning from the moment they arrive in the world. Children that are one, two, three years old are developing the brain power for their future. Their parents have to work. Our youngest children need the most child care, and yet the least help is available to their families.
    As one parent of two kids, ages three and 6 months told us:
    “Most days, I commute an hour and half each way to work. If I had a child care subsidy, I could afford to live closer to my job. I wouldn’t have to rely on my mom, and my daughters could have social interaction. I’d be able to spend more time with them at a park, instead of sitting in traffic. Sometimes I get stressed out, and sometimes we have to ride the bus because I don’t even have money for gas – and I can’t melt down in front of the kids.”
    Governor Newsom’s proposals are better than those of any governor we have ever had. We hope he will work with legislators to budget for child care vouchers so parents can get quality child care for their babies and toddlers. With a healthy budget and supportive elected officials, we can support children before they get to preschool, and lay the foundation for a brighter future for everyone.