By Kim Belshé
Here in Los Angeles County, the extreme shortage of early learning opportunities for young children is an urgent issue, especially for families with babies and toddlers. According to a recent report, 59% of preschoolers lack access to early learning opportunities; and 87% of infants and toddlers don’t have access to a licensed child care center seat.
The $126 billion California budget proposal for FY 2017-18 Legislative leaders sent to Governor Brown’s desk this week is a critical step forward in addressing the needs of our young children and their families. The spending plan honors a promise outlined last year to restore funding for almost 3,000 children’s early learning opportunities, and allocates new funding to help open up access to early care and education to more families.
The new budget includes multi-year funding allowing more families to afford quality child care. Today, a family with one child and two minimum wage earning parents, does not qualify for subsidized child care because their household income (of $42,216 per year) is a mere $1,464 above the level to qualify. These families are too poor to afford market-rate child care, but our current laws imagine minimum-wage earning families to be “too rich” to deserve help with their rising child care costs. The new budget awaiting the Governor’s signature will fix this.
The new budget also will increase child care provider reimbursement rates, a long overdue change, and will make it easier for foster parents to access child care and support services.
The benefits of quality child care are clear. Quality child care between the ages of 0 to 5 years old greatly increases a child’s chances of earning a higher income, being healthier and avoiding prison later in life. Quality, affordable child care is a mechanism for breaking cycles of poverty and giving our youngest children the best possible start in life.
Investing in our children and their care is one of the best investments we Californians can make.
We at First 5 LA applaud the work of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and the entire California Legislative Women’s Caucus for making investments in early care and education the priority our children deserve and what our state requires in order to become a place where young children can thrive for generations to come.
While there is still significant work to be done to improve the lives of our young children and their families, it’s important to recognize our state took an important step in the right direction this week.
Kim Belshé is Executive Director of First 5 LA.
This opinion editorial was originally published by the Los Angeles Daily News on July 7, 2017