Child Care Funding on the Potential Chopping Block of State Budgets

Jun 16, 2010

By Teresa Lim

In California, funding for child care assistance remains uncertain as legislators continue to examine ways to trim the state budget. Child care assistance is a critical support for many low-income parents who need child care so they can go to work but cannot otherwise afford its high costs. Nearly 200,000 income-eligible children are on waiting lists for child care assistance in California. The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network (CCCRRN) finds that most of these children's parents are employed and that most of them need full-time care for their children.

An article in the Los Angeles Times recently highlighted some of the damaging effects that potential funding cuts are already having on child care programs. Some child care centers and school districts have begun laying off child care staff; full-day programs have been reduced to half-day services; and the number of available slots for children has been slashed. Other centers and districts have begun warning parents of possible service reductions or program closures, and some school districts are using general funds to continue providing partial support to child care programs as temporary fixes.

Assessing the impact of the potential funding cuts, the CCCRRN and the California Department of Education estimate that a total 200,000 children would be affected by the cuts; 100,000 working parents would have to leave their jobs to care for their children; and 130,000 jobs in the child care field would be eliminated.

However, California is not alone. A recent analysis of spending on early care and education across all states by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) found that appropriations for programs and services have remained largely unchanged from FY 2009 to FY 2010. The report by NCSL, Early Care and Education State Budget Actions FY 2010, includes individual state profiles and data on uses of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In FY 2010, California and other states faced significant budget gaps. NCSL expects that these budget challenges will continue as far out as FY 2013. In spite of this, states closed a total budget gap of $174.1 billion last fiscal year with assistance from ARRA funds. Thirty-one states used ARRA funds for child care. Although the report finds that ARRA funds played a key role in helping states maintain or improve early childhood programs, and particularly child care, the need for affordable, high-quality child care remains high. 

As states finalize their FY 2011 budgets, legislators must maintain investments in child care and other early care programs. Low-income, working parents just can't afford the consequences of cuts.

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