by Linda Asato

The lack of increased investment in child care and early learning in the Governor’s Proposed 2015-16 Budget is concerning given the mounting evidence and broad call to action from a cross-section of business and community leaders to invest in the early years. In California, almost one out of four children lives in poverty and one of five women works a low-wage job, many heading single parent households with children.

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An Oakland rally for child care protested a stalled budget process that withheld payments to child care providers on July 30, 2008, at the beginning of the great recession – just when both parents and providers most needed support.

Considering those statistics and the stark reality that once a child is born into poverty, the likelihood of moving up is greatly diminished, Californians have to ask, what will happen to our state and our nation if large percentages of our children don’t have a high school diploma or skills to support themselves and their families? Additional investment through the Local Control Financing Formula is a start, but children begin learning at birth.

The Governor’s Proposal proposes no new investments for these earliest years. Early childhood education is proven to help children become ready for school and build the skills necessary for success throughout school and life, while also enabling the family to be self-sufficient.

New research shows that for families with very young children earning $25,000 a year, boosting family income by $3,000 can yield a 17 percent increase in earnings for these young children when they become adults. Our state leaders have the ability to set a positive course for generations to come.

During the 2008-2013 great recession over 110,000 children lost their child care subsidy, this on top of the over 200,000 subsidy-eligible children waiting for subsidized care. Low-income children and families have greatly suffered the consequences of recent budget cuts; with recent increased resources to our state, we must invest in them.

We urge lawmakers to dedicate at least $500 million to increase access to child care for children in low-income families, especially infants and toddlers, with adequate reimbursement rates to enable parents to choose among high quality programs that nurture their children, cognitively stimulate them and ensure that they enter school ready to learn.

With an overall revenue increase of $4 billion above the 2014 Budget Act, Gov. Brown’s January 2015-16 Budget Proposal focuses instead on increasing the Rainy Day Fund and paying down debt while children continue to be caught in a cycle of poverty with no lattice to support them towards economic upward mobility.

If we do not counteract the recent mass disinvestment of funds supporting children, cumulatively a whole generation of children will have been impacted by the lost opportunities. The economic projections indicate that the cost to us all will be high.

Therefore, we urge lawmakers to dedicate at least $500 million to increase access to child care for children in low-income families, especially infants and toddlers, with adequate reimbursement rates to enable parents to choose among high quality programs that nurture their children, cognitively stimulate them and ensure that they enter school ready to learn.

Linda Asato, executive director of the California Child Care Research and Referral Network, can be reached at 415-882-0234 or lasato@rrnetwork.org.

 

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