In response to sizeable budget shortfalls, state lawmakers have repeatedly cut state spending in recent years. Last month, we released fact sheets illustrating the impact of these cuts on the CalWORKs, SSI/SSP, and Healthy Families programs. Our newest fact sheet looks at recent reductions to child care and development programs and shows that the cumulative impact of these cuts amounts to more than $1.6 billion between 2009-10 and 2011-12. Over $750 million of these reductions were passed by the Legislature in March 2011 and take effect next month. The March cuts are expected to cause more than 60,000 children to lose access to child care and preschool in 2011-12.
As our new fact sheet explains, recent cuts to child care and development programs take a variety of forms and affect families in the CalWORKs welfare-to-work program as well as low-income working families who do not receive CalWORKs cash assistance. For example, the Legislature has cut payments to child care and preschool providers, eliminated child care for most 11- and 12-year-olds during traditional work hours, reduced the maximum income at which families are eligible for child care and preschool, and shifted costs to families through a 10 percent fee increase.
The Legislature appears to be rethinking some of these reductions. Last month, the Assembly Budget Committee’s subcommittee on education finance voted to reverse the cuts to programs overseen by the California Department of Education, although this action left intact a $243.9 million cut to CalWORKs Stage 1 child care, which serves families who are working or participating in county-approved work activities. In contrast, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee’s education subcommittee voted to reverse just one of the March reductions: a 10 percent cut to payments for certain licensed child care and preschool providers, known as “Title 5” providers.
The deep cuts passed in March will hinder the ability of low-income parents, particularly single mothers, to hold onto their jobs or get back into the workforce as California slowly recovers from the Great Recession. Restoring access to affordable child care and preschool for more than 60,000 California children would strengthen one of California’s key public structures – our child care and development programs – while also investing in one of the state’s most important “natural resources” – our children.