The Governor’s Budget Proposal and Contra Costa Kids

Governor Brown issued his budget proposal last week, as he does every January. Many organizations, like the California Budget & Policy Center, offer smart analyses and explanations of what is in the Governor’s budget. The good news is that this year’s budget offers early childhood advocates  a lot to be excited about, including investments in early childhood education, health, and family support – all of the things that First 5 believes are critically important for children and families to succeed.

A lot of work and revision will happen between now and when the budget becomes final in June. But the January budget is significant because it signals the Governor’s priorities and the budget projections give the legislature a sense of the dollars available to work with.

For Contra Costa children, the budget holds a lot of promise.

The budget includes many improvements to early childhood education programs. It increases funding for subsidized child care programs; increases the number of high-quality preschool slots; and creates a new online community college for early childhood education, which should lead to more qualified child care teachers. Those are big, important moves that will support, strengthen and grow California’s early childhood system. Exactly how many parents, children and providers would be affected in Contra Costa is not yet clear, but currently there is an estimated shortage of 29,000 child care spaces in the county. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Another exciting proposal is the plan to increase funding for family support services. These are the services designed to help families who are vulnerable because of poverty or other factors that put them at risk for maternal depression, poor academic outcomes for the children, or interaction with the child welfare system.

The Governor proposed to create a new home visiting program for first-time mothers who receive assistance through the CalWORKs program. If passed, this would be an important new program that would match new parents with trained professionals who would provide regular home visits on a voluntary basis. Home visiting programs have been shown to promote healthy child development and academic success, improve health outcomes, and support families’ economic security.

Again, the number of families who could benefit from this program is unclear at this stage. Home visiting programs operating today can only reach a tiny fraction of all the families who might benefit from them. Contra Costa Health Services’ Nurse Family Partnership program has reached over 300 families. Other programs operating in the county, including First 5 Contra Costa’s Welcome Home Baby, reach hundreds of other families. Without adequate funding, it’s no wonder these programs cannot meet the needs of the 15,000 Contra Costa children under age 6 who live in poverty.

The Governor’s budget makes it clear that early childhood advocates, who have been telling the Administration for years about the need to prioritize children, have made an impression. Given the big needs of our young children, the Governor’s proposals highlighted here are welcome, though they will not suffice. The administration and legislature need to keep their eyes on the many complex and critical needs of our children in this and every budget cycle.

Sarah Crow is First 5 Contra Costa’s Strategic Information and Planning Manager

We Need to Invest in Little Kids, Too

childcareblogThe annual State of American Preschool report found that state spending for preschool is at its lowest level in a decade.

Years of state budget cuts, coupled with the sequestration, have decimated the infrastructure of the nation’s early care and education systems. California alone has reduced its early education budget by more than a $1 billion in recent years resulting in 110,000 children losing child care and preschool.

With the release of his May Revise to the 2013-14 state Budget yesterday, Governor Brown isn’t proposing to restore and rebuild California’s child care system any time soon.

Continue reading

The Impact of Child Care Cuts and Realignment: A Local Example

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. Continue reading

Your Story Matters: The Local Impact of Child Care Cuts

The good news is that State leaders have taken action in recent weeks to prevent a number of Governor Brown’s proposed cuts to children’s programs.

The California State Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, chaired by Concord’s Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, voted to reject the governor’s budget proposals to eliminate transitional kindergarten and to realign child care to the county welfare departments. These are positive first steps in addressing a number of the Governor’s proposals that would be devastating for low-income children and families. Continue reading

Brown’s Budget Devastating for Children and Families

We all knew that the State budget for the coming fiscal year would be as challenging as those in previous years. But I don’t think anyone imagined the sweeping cuts aimed at the poor and their children proposed by the Governor. Reducing the CalWorks budget by $1 billion, with additional cuts to subsidized child care of over half a billion, the Governor proposes setting back the safety net to a time well before President Clinton promised “an end to welfare as we know it.” Continue reading