July 20, 2022

Budget Response and Call to Action

More than four years ago, California's advocates engaged in a campaign to ensure that early childhood education was an integral pillar for whoever was elected our next governor. Lieutenant Governor Newsom embraced this idea, deliberately incorporating early care and education into his campaign.

Upon his election one of his first acts as governor was to reveal his proposed budget for 2019-2020. To everyone's surprise and joy, his budget summary in January 2019 began with children. In fact, it began with our youngest children. For two years we enjoyed budget summaries that included a first chapter titled "Early Childhood."

This history and these promises makes this year’s budget especially hard to accept, unexplainable, disappointing and shameful. Thanks to federal investments, California’s child care system has enjoyed an unprecedented infusion of funds since the start of the pandemic, allowing for:

  • Expanded access to families;
  • Temporary increased affordability due to the waiving of family fees and child care providers being paid based on enrollment;
  • Stipends to providers to support keeping them open or reopening after closure;
  • And access to free cleaning supplies and PPE to ease the added expense and difficulty of finding what was needed to keep everyone healthy.

These changes have been life changing for families and a lifeline for child care providers in every setting. Like many industries, the pandemic put child care on the brink of collapse, but these changes proved that many original policies were draconian and unnecessary, and kept child care businesses afloat.

The Governor has spoken a lot recently about bringing relief to struggling Californians and businesses impacted by inflation. He even acted on it in his budget-but forgot about the one industry that keeps Californians working. Like all of us, child care businesses and providers have been impacted by the increased costs. Since 2018, the cost of:

  • Diapers have increased by 50%

  • Wipes have increased by 30%

  • Milk has increased by 28%

  • Baby formula (if you can get it) has increased by 41%

California’s minimum wage will increase by $.50 in January by law, bringing the much needed increase to $4.50 over the last 4 years. There has not been, and will not be a corresponding rate increase for child care providers-in fact, current subsidy rates are based on 4 year old data.

This administration is determined to speed the collapse of our child care system. We are on target to drive a highly skilled child care workforce out of the field, depriving children and families of the trusted, loving care they want and need. Our child care workforce is primarily made up of Black and Latina women, women who are immigrants, women who are monolingual in languages other than English, and women who are multilingual and bicultural.

Advocates demanded, and the Legislature passed a budget that would have increased subsidy rates by 20%, still far below the increased costs of doing business. The Governor refused to agree, nor negotiate another amount. We should be enraged. The budget is a statement of our values. The message this budget sends to child care workers in California is you don’t matter.

Governor Newsom will likely be our governor for four more years. We will remind him continuously how he is giving up on California’s future, its youngest children and their families doing their best to support them. As a leader who has championed his work as forward thinking for our state and nation, he needs to make this right. For now, the budget is what it is, but there is one more sliver of hope.

Just months ago, we were all invigorated about the possibility of child care funding to help increase wages for child care providers and access for families across the country. Build Back Better is long gone, but our final hope of getting anything close to it lies in budget reconciliation working its way through the U.S. Senate. However, the best intelligence lets us know that no new child care funding is included in the currently negotiated package.

We need you to urge Congress to include child care in reconciliation.

Reconciliation is literally the only possible way we will see any semblance of what we hoped for in Build Back Better. Since California has failed, this is our only hope. Please send a message today, and share with your community.

In Community,

Linda Asato, Executive Director