Will Governor's Budget Indicate an Understanding of a Child Care Crisis
At 10:30 this morning, we are going to get our first look at Governor Newsom's proposed 2022-23 budget. I am hoping and praying that the governor and his advisors have been paying attention to the child care capacity and workforce crisis plaguing California and the nation.
As the Omicron variant spreads and the governor and media once again shift to conversations of in-person versus distance schooling, restaurants and a health care system imploding, will they again see that essential family child care providers and our center-based workforce have continued to show up to keep families working and California open? Do they understand that many real working parents are fearful of sending their child(ren) back to a classroom and are relying on smaller child care settings to support their choice? Do they understand that for every available child care slot there are both subsidized and private pay families competing? Do they understand that even with a negligible subsidized child care rate increase that went into effect on January 1st that most family child care providers make poverty incomes?
In a short couple of hours, we will see.
The release of the 2022-23 budget is a starting point for a process of identifying priorities needed to be met in California. It is also a highly politicized process that oftentimes fails to see the bigger picture because too much focus is placed on the here and now or on "weedier" issues. What do I mean by that? Let me give you an example.
In last year's budget, there was funded 110,500 new child care slots. However, there was no thought or funding allocated to increasing the child care and early learning workforce, no thought to the existing child care centers that have shuttered classrooms because the reimbursement rates do not pay enough for centers to hold on to staff and/or hire new teachers, and no thought to provide more funding to community nonprofit partners to hire more staff and case workers to handle the family enrollment that more than doubled the existing statewide capacity of families.
So, on the one hand there was unprecedented monies thrown at funding more child care slots. Last year's budget put forth $733 million for 110,500 new child care slots but zero dollars to help enroll the new slots and zero dollars allocated to increasing the capacity of family child care providers and centers. What good are the new slots if families cannot be enrolled and do not have access to a child care provider?
For 2022-23, it is my hope that the governor and legislators will listen to those who work in the field, have the data and can provide real needs and actions that will make a meaningful impact in the lives of our poorest families and children. It is my hope that Governor Newsom and his advisors come to the table in a real way and ask those who work every day with these issues what ought to be the priorities for action and funding. Let's not continue to "fund more slots" when there are not enough providers able to enroll the new slots.
In closing, let me be crystal clear. California's mixed delivery system of community nonprofit partners, county offices of education, family child care providers and centers have a demonstrable history of being more than capable of supporting the needs of working families. However, it cannot be expected that after over a decade of neglect, throwing money solely at funding slots devoid of addressing access and workforce will yield the desirable outcomes.