The Concord Child Care Center, a nationally accredited Title 5 child care center, has been providing early education services for low-income toddlers and preschoolers for nearly 40 years. But like hundreds of Title 5 child care centers in California, the Concord Child Care Center may close if the Governor’s proposed child care cuts and realignment of the state’s child care system are approved. The Center’s long-time director Judy Waggoner explains the local impact of these cuts.
What is a Title 5 Child Care program?
Title 5 child care centers are funded directly through the California Department of Education (CDE). There are 115 sites in Contra Costa County funded to serve serve about 10,200 children. Many of us have been in operation for decades, especially in the Concord or Martinez area.
Title 5 centers operate under Title V of the Education Code of California. This is how these centers got their “name”. The centers are operated by school districts, county offices of education, colleges and non-profit corporations. They are designed to provide high-quality early care and education to California’s poorest children and they have specific requirements for program, staffing, and parent fees. CDE’s current preschool standards were developed using Title 5 centers. These centers have been in the forefront of the Early Childhood Education movement in California and have some of the most qualified and well-trained ECE teachers in the country.
How many children do you serve?
We serve 144 children every month. The families we serve are very low income – most of them make about $10 an hour. They’re working 30 to 50 hours a week and they have never received any other assistance except assistance with child care fees. These are truly working poor families.
The proposed budget reduces reimbursement rates from $34.38 to $30.94. If passed, what would the impact be on your program?
It would reduce our rate per child and eliminate eligibility for about 55% of our families. The rate reduction alone is a loss of $125,409 out of a $900,000 budget.
We’ve been here 39 years, but with that kind of turnaround and that drastic change, we probably could not stay open. Most of the Title 5 programs have had a 25% reduction in funding in the last three years. With another major reduction, I don’t see how that could work.
Explain how the proposal to shift all child care programs except part-day state preschool from the CDE to county welfare agencies would affect your program?
Starting in 2013-2014, California State Preschool and General Child Care Programs (and Title 5 programs) would no longer contract directly with the State Department of Education. Instead, funding would go directly to county welfare departments, who will issue vouchers to eligible families.
Our parents would have to pay the full cost of care or go to the county welfare department to get a voucher for subsidized child care, and then choose to come here – if in fact they are still eligible for a voucher. County welfare departments would be allowed to determine who is eligible and whether or not they wish to serve non-CalWORKs families, which could reduce subsidies available for non-welfare low-income families – the very families our program has served for decades.
How would this realignment affect the quality of child care provided?
It would take away the focus we have on early childhood development and school readiness.
As I mentioned, our centers are funded as part of California’s education code. The primary focus has always been on research-based methods for educating California’s youngest children. The quality of care our Title 5 centers provide is recognized nationwide. Private ECE programs do not have to implement any specific program to obtain their voucher money to serve low-income children. The Department of Social Services follows a child care philosophy which focuses on the parent finding convenient care with no emphasis on education for the child receiving care.
What will be the impact on children?
Thousands of children would lose subsidized care in this county. And what will happen to the children? Some are going to be at home with older siblings and some will be taken in their parents’ cars with them. These are the things we saw thirty years ago, with children sleeping in the car while mom was in working. There will be a severe setback for them in kindergarten and being able to succeed in a very challenging environment.
How would early educators be affected?
It would eliminate teacher positions for early childhood educators and private providers. In our case, we currently have 21 staff members; 17 are teachers. Just five years ago we had a staff of 28, so we’ve already reduced staff by 25%. If most of the Title 5 centers close, there will be a lot of people out of work in the early childhood field all at once, and everyone is going to be out there looking for the same job.
What do you see as the long-term impact of these cuts?
The already stretched public school system will suffer a lot of the impact. Finding a child who has trouble with speech at age three and working with him, eliminates the problem in 99% of the cases. Having them get into kindergarten and wait another year for services, it’s a whole different thing.
If this budget passes, more children will enter school with bigger problems that could have been fixed easily if they were identified and handled in preschool. Eliminating preschool for many lower income children will only increase the achievement gap.