Child care families, providers abandoned by state government

childcare-300x222, Child care families, providers abandoned by state government, Local News & Views by Mary Ignatius

Oakland – Nearly 50 parents, children, child care providers and advocates held a press conference Wednesday morning, July 30, at the State Building in Oakland to urge the Legislature and the governor to come to a budget agreement immediately. At stake are child care services to over 500,000 children whose providers will not be paid by the state. The California Department of Education has no authority to pay child care contractors until a signed budget is enacted.

To demonstrate the demanding work that child care providers perform each day – and for now, at least, work they must do without pay – children participated in activities with their providers in a small center set up in front of the State Building. Rosa Lopez, a licensed family child care provider in Oakland, stated: “I am a small business owner running a family child care. The children and families I care for depend on me and we all feel abandoned by the Legislature and governor who have failed to pass a budget on time. How can I keep my doors open with no pay?”

On Friday, the budget impasse enters its second month. Thousands of child care providers who serve working poor families will not be paid for services rendered since July 1. While child care contractors are encouraged to have a reserve, the prolonged budget stalemate leaves them scrambling to piece together plans to keep their doors open and maintain the dependable, quality care that working parents rely on them to provide.

“I am a single, full-time working parent. I depend on my child care subsidy to be at work on time Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” said Maty Pinedo, a leader with the child care advocacy group Parent Voices. “I’m very anxious and worried about the state budget delay. I’m afraid my provider cannot continue to care for my daughter, Jensy, without pay.”

The Budget Conference Committee has reconciled the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget, but a floor vote has not yet been scheduled. Tandenico Jones, a member of LIFETIME, declared: “The governor and the Legislature need to come to agreement that doesn’t just cut services to balance the budget. Our economy is so bad right now; costs for everything have gone up. If the services I depend on are cut, all the efforts I’ve made to move my family forward will slip away.”

Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson, D-Oakland, told the crowd at the rally: “The budget has been delayed every year because we need two thirds to pass it. We need to start making provisions for funding to bridge the gap between one budget and the next so that our children and the workers who care for them are not endangered by a budget stalemate.”

The state handles child care services through independent vendors, who contract with the state to provide direct child care service. Like other vendors, child care agencies do not receive funding after June 30 until the state passes a budget for the following fiscal year.

“In an environment that requires a two thirds vote, the state will regularly find itself in a crisis role. Child care centers are the most vital and vulnerable services we provide, and they should not be caught up in the conflict between Democrats, Republicans and the governor. We need to make sure that money is there to keep them from becoming the victim of a budget stalemate,” Swanson noted.

“The longer we go without a budget, the more child care programs are at risk of closing,” said Janet Zamudia, a spokesperson for Bananas, a regional non-profit child care and support agency. “Children are at risk of losing their child care, and parents are at risk of losing their jobs.”

Children at the rally today arrived chanting, “It’s not fair, we want to play!”

“The education, health and safety of our children is our number one priority. These children represent our next generation. As such, we need to make children a real priority in our budget. We need to make sure that child care and education are as valued as incentives to grow business, because without a strong education and a strong workforce, our economy and our community cannot thrive,” Swanson concluded.

Parents and providers were joined by sponsoring organizations Parent Voices, California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, LIFETIME and the California Partnership.

Contact Mary Ignatius at Parent Voices Statewide Organizer, 111 New Montgomery St., Seventh Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105, (415) 882-0234, Contact the office of Assemblymember Sandre’ R. Swanson at (916) 319-2016. His staff contributed to this report.