“We are in very uncertain times,” said Governor Jerry Brown when he released his 2017-18 State Budget proposal last week. The Governor is anticipating a $1.6 billion deficit, the first deficit projected after four years of growth, due to lower revenues collected. The anticipation of major policy shifts from the incoming Trump administration and the Republican Congress only adds to the uncertainty. The impact of reduced (or eliminated) federal funding flowing to California will likely be reflected in the May Budget Revise, if known.
Here’s what we do know: the Governor’s new budget does not do enough to support California’s young children and families. Most troubling is the fact it tables a three-year plan to increase child care provider reimbursement rates and subsidized child slots. This means $226.8 million in planned child care spending won’t be included in the budget next year and nearly 3,000 children will have to wait one more year for subsidized full-day preschool.
Can California’s children afford to wait? The state’s subsidized child care and preschool system lost $1 billion during the Great Recession and remains funded 20 percent below pre-recession levels, according to the California Budget and Policy Center. Uncertain times call for investing in programs proven to work. Quality early learning benefits children now and well into the future.
The Governor’s budget also proposes administrative changes to the California State Preschool Program. We will follow and participate in discussions about these changes to ensure they do not compromise program quality and children’s care and learning.
On the plus side, the budget offers support for families struggling to make ends meet from California’s earned income tax credit, an increase in the minimum wage, implementation of last summer’s repeal of the Maximum Family Grant for public aid recipients, and the expansion of health care coverage.
The next six months leading up to the final revised budget will be crucial in keeping whole the education, health and social programs that sustain hundreds of thousands of California families. These are the families who bore the brunt of the last budget crisis resulting in a generation of young children who lost the opportunity for quality early education. The young children of our state and county cannot afford to fall behind yet again, even in “uncertain times.”
Read the California Policy Center’s take on the budget.