California’s child care cuts, explained

Preschool. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffIn California, more than a half million children take part in a publicly funded child care program while their parents work or go to school.

But the waiting list for one of the coveted seats is 180,000 children long — and about to get longer, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

On Nov. 1, nearly 60,000 children whose families have been off welfare for two years or more will lose their spaces.

Those children and their families are  in what’s known as “Stage 3″ of CalWORKs, the welfare-to-work program. Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto powers on Friday to strike Stage 3 from the budget.

If you’re as confused about the ever-changing status of child care funding as I was this morning, you might find this document from the Legislative Analyst’s Office helpful. (Note: The funding listed combines state and federal sources.)

Or the following summary, based on my interview with Rachel Ehlers, an analyst with the LAO:

In May, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed wiping out nearly all state subsidies for child care, a budget-balancing move that would have left roughly 175,000 children from poor families without preschool slots. The proposed cut: $1.2 billion.

On Friday morning, the state Legislature passed a budget that kept all of the 2009-10 child care funding intact.

Later in the day, Schwarzenegger took some of those funds right back out. But not all of them — just CalWORKs Stage 3. That means nearly 60,000 children will lose their slots, and their families will have to find someone else to care for their kids while they’re working (or quit their jobs). The actual cut: $256 million.

I’m still waiting on information from Oakland Unified about how many families are in that program. The district will offer child care through the end of the calendar year using other sources of funding.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Mike Sanchez

    As to the $17 per person to cover the cost…that is assuming that every person pays. A HUGE segment of our population pays little or no taxes, leaving a much higher burden to those that do. Every little fee, every little bump is magnified to those that we are asking to employ us. So many business owners are already leaving California.

  • Gordon Danning

    Mike Sanchez:

    I took that into account when coming up with the $17. Here is another way to calculate it:

    The amount at issue is $256 million, out of a state budget of about $89 billion. 256 million divided by 89 billion is .0028764. I paid $2200 in taxes last year on a taxable income very close to the state mean. $2200 x .0028764 = $6.32.

  • Gordon Danning


    You are of course correct that when a state has a budget deficit, it has 2 options: Raising taxes and cutting spending. You are also correct that raising taxes is harmful to the economy during a recession.

    But you neglect the fact that cutting spending ALSO harms the economy, because spending declines that way, too. So the choice is between taking a little bit out of everyone’s paycheck (i.e, increasing tazes), or taking a LOT out of a few people’s paychecks (cutting spending). Given that marginal propensity to consume declines as income rises, the wisest choice is to increase taxes on richer folks, rather than to reduce expenditures on the poor, which is what we have chosen to do.

  • JR

    The state of California has been deficit spending for years, using budgeting gimmicks to spend every last cent and avoid the necessary ” hard choices” while never having a rainy day fund. On top of that we have a sizable contingent of state and local employees(paid with tax money, some are critical and many are not) BTW when the state taxes those who’s income is from taxes, is it a net gain or a net loss for the state(factoring in pay and bennies).

    We have the largest generation in the process of retiring, and continuing well into the future. As far as taxing the wealthy go, no one knows how to “game the system” better than the wealthy, they know how to pay virtually nothing (compared dollar for dollar)with the middle class person. The truth is they do pay the majority of the taxes already though. They are liable to pack up and leave or more likely declare one of their other homes as principal residence. Those are the main reasons why I say we should cut back the gigantic bureaucracy that we have created if we expect to survive financially.


  • TeeWoo

    In 1987, My first child was born. This was the same year that I graduated from high school
    I worked as a nursing assistant while attending night school…obtaining my AA in child development
    By the time my daughter was two I applied for welfare and medical. I moved into my first apartment at the age of 18 with the help of section 8 . I started my own family childcare and shortly after, purchased my own home. Today I have been married for 20 years and have seven children. My husband was laid Off last year, but by the grace of God we still managed to hang in there.
    July 2010 was the last time I received a pay check due to the budget cuts. To date we have depleted all of our resources and its funny because I work every day providing childcare, but my income has decreased drastically and I have been forced to get on public assistance and it has been just a drop in the bucket.
    This is the same impact that the loss in stage three will have on so many families that have worked so hard to get ahead and suddenly they find themselves back in the welfare line. No doubt about it the welfare system has not seen an over load like its about to see and what the politicians don’t see is if families can get back on Aid they will begin on stage 1 all over again. I provide care for multiple families who’s co pay is more than the subsidized payment they received. Basically, funds are based on income.
    These are a few areas that should have been looked at before such drastic measures were taken: Age restriction for children, half time payments, tracking systems for head start to prevent providers from receiving payment while children attend city funded programs, and even the recap of childcare payments.

  • Catherine

    @TeeWoo: I read your post a couple of hours ago. I waited to respond because I feel bad for your situation. I also teach middle school. The vast majority of my students who are not working at grade level have three or more siblings.

    My question for you is this – how do you have time to spend 10 minutes a day with each of your children individually? That’s the bare minimum my students need is 10 minutes a day with each of their parents. It does not have to be both parents at the same time, but it must be time alone without any other siblings to feel heard, respected, loved, and known as an individual.

    Students who do not have that individual time with each parent are inevitably the students who have disruptive behavior in the classroom and in the halls to get the attention they need. I have talked to thousands of students over the years and I hear students say they need more than 10 minutes a day of individual, uninterrupted time, but I have never hear less than 10 minutes from each parent, every day.

  • Mike Sanchez

    @TeeWoo: Your situation is why it is necessary to have a safety net. We do have welfare, and free child care for families that are on welfare, or have been in the last two years. There is also free child care for the lowest income families that have not been on welfare. Stage 3 however was not a safety net…It was free child care for families that have been off welfare and stable for two years.

  • Mike Sanchez

    In reality, subsidized childcare hurts working families. One of the requirements when making payments is that the state will not pay more than 90% of the average cost for child care in an area, another is that they will not pay more fore subsidzed care than the daycare provider charges for private pay. If Provider A charges $400 per month and Provider B charges $600 per month, the average is $500 per month. 90% is $450 per month. If Provider A does not raise thier rates on thier private pay clients to $450 per month, the will not get the maximum from the State. In order to guarantee maximum payment, most providers will set thier rates at or above the “Regional Market Rate”.

    Supply and Demand are not allowed to opperate as long as the state keeps paying for childcare. As rates go up, fewer people can afford child care and need subsidies. Polititians get pressure to provide more funding. Regional market rates are recalculated and the cycle repeats.

    The funny thing is that the majority of the politcal action and advocacy is done by agencies who are funded by this process. CDE Consultants, County Office of Ed and Resource and Referral agencies take money that originate from the state and stir up people to go to rallies and talk to the state about how badly we need more money for childcare (and those agencies budgets). Parents sign up to be on a waiting list (“the CEL”) in one county for free child care and end up on a mailing list for “Parents Voices” which takes parents to rallies in Sacramento. Taxpayer dollars are laundered and moved around and then spent on demanding more taxpayer dollars.

    The poor children would not be so poor if we were not frittering away everyones money on the beaurocracy of paying for childcare. A saftey net is one thing, a politcal machine to get more and more funding is another.

    By the way, I heard about this article, (along with a list of other articals and rallies), from an e-mail sent by the “Campaign to Save Child Care” sent to a CDE consultant sent to someone at a County Office of ED, sent out to thier mailing list. It said “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!!! FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS INFO”

    Your tax dollars working hard to get more tax dollars :)

  • Mike Sanchez

    Sorry about the spelling errors typing too fast w/o spell check. :(

  • Mike Sanchez

    Did you know all this money comes from the Department of Education? We can not afford supplies and teachers, but through Stage 3 funding we can afford to pay for childcare for a family making over $4800/month for a family of 5,two parents, recieving free child care over 9 years, one parent works for the county, subsidized $600/month, (actual case of a stage 3 family losing care on the 31st), because they USED to be on welfare?

  • Hills Parent

    TeeWoo, I’m sympathetic to your situation – to a degree. And then I wonder why you decided to have seven children? I know what’s done is done, but I think that collectively everyone should be much more responsible about family planning decisions. It’s so much easier to provide financially and emotionally for a couple of children, right? People need to take responsibility for their choices and not expect that your fellow citizens and taxpayers will support your decision to have a large family! I don’t get it…

  • Mike Sanchez

    @Gordon: “the wisest choice is to increase taxes on richer folks, rather than to reduce expenditures on the poor, which is what we have chosen to do.”

    The arrogance of someone who feels they can determine who is rich and who is poor, and feels they have the right to take from someone who earned it. You have a right to give of your own; you do not have the right to take from others. If you keep trying to “tax the rich”, they will take their ball and go home, and discourage those of us that aspire to one day have our own ball. Our country was built on the idea that anyone could succeed. Today it is so difficult to start a business and hire people, I am afraid the American Dream is all but dead. Only when government gets out of the way will our economy be great again.

    People who have made poor choices need more than a check. They need to be responsible and accountable to those that are helping them. When individuals or small charities help, they know the person who is in need and can give guidance and help to make a change.

    Government handouts not only do not encourage behavioral changes, but also encourage bad behavior. You would be amazed at how many ‘daddies’ are supposedly not in the home and can not be found, yet have the same last name as several new children since the family went on aid. Fraud is all but ignored. I know, because I work in the industry and see the families every day.

    The problem is when receiving aid becomes a lifestyle. It becomes too easy to accept it and not make the hard choices. When faced with choices, it is natural for people to choose the path of least resistance. If you create a program like Stage 3, that will pay for child care until the child is 13 and allows you to keep adding children indefinitely with little consideration of income, what parent would not take the benefit as long as it is available?

    Help needs to be limited, short term, include education and a path to self-sufficiency. Anything else hurts the family, trapping them in a dependant class that is difficult to escape.

  • JR

    People who live off tax money don’t seem to understand what it takes to actually go out and make money by effort, skill,hard work and personal initiative. These people have money delivered to them courtesy of the working taxpayer, which is why government employees tend to sympathize with them(they have things in common). A lot of these women who go to school and get jobs are subsidized(schooling, housing, money and food)and to top it off they end up with a government job(subsidized). That is not helping real taxpayers at all, it’s just another sham.


  • Mike Sanchez

    JR: an interesting article indeed. Really, she does not need to get a degree in social work…now that there is no Stage 3 funding, there will be a glut of unemployed Stage 3 caseworkers. Sorry, that was mean and callous. But why not a degree in HR, Accounting, Business, Engineering? Make something, sell a product, improve productivity…a product or service that someone wants to PAY for.

    I found it interesting that “Merriouns worked her way off state cash assistance in recent years, first by holding a temporary job as a phlebotomist, and now by going back to school full time”.

    Going back to school full time is not WORKing your way off assistance. She should continue working as a phlebotomist for next 4 years until her second child is in school and can use a less expensive after school program. Consider living with parents or a roommate to help with expenses, take classes around your work schedule. I know many people getting a degree through Phoenix University etc., one class at a time while WORKing. Or…start a daycare, stay at home with your 2 kids and watch 4-6 others.

    Yes it is tough. Had it been tough enough 2 years ago, she would not have a six month old with no daddy now. Instead, there was a promise of continued free childcare for any and all of your children until age 13. Have 5 more, and split the check with your day care provider, its OK (tongue-in-cheek)

    People make choices. Choices have consequences. Learn from your mistakes, ->change your life<-, and move on.

    BTW: Anyone who did not see the cut coming has not been paying attention. Arnold wanted to cut Stages 1, 2 & 3 at the beginning of the year. Cuts have been anticipated since May. Warning letters have gone out for the last 2 months…How much notice do you need?!?! The only thing cut was care for people who have been deemed 'stable' by Health and Human Services for two years.

    Sorry, I have gone on way too long about something that should have been posted at SFGATE.