Spending demands from early learner advocates

Spending demands from early learner advocates

(Calif.) Advocates for early learners have inundated the Legislature over the past two weeks, lobbying lawmakers to enhance services for infants and toddlers—especially those living in low-income neighborhoods.

The suggestions include adding 100,000 new vouchered child care slots for working families; reinstating supplemental subsidies for child care meals and increasing the reimbursement; increasing funding for after school program staff to meet the state’s new minimum wage; and appropriating enough money to cover a three-year pilot program to teach coding.

The blitz comes as lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown are just beginning budget negotiations that will quickly accelerate ahead of the June deadline.

Although February tax collections fell slightly short of expectations, the state is still running $2.5 billion ahead of projections for the year—with two of the biggest months for collections—April and June—still to come.

While Brown has been steadfast in his resistance to create new programs and services as the economic recovery has blossomed into a boom over the past two years, he will be hard pressed to turn away social service advocates if the soaring stock market continues to deliver profits and taxes on capital gains through the end of the fiscal year.

Some advocacy groups are not waiting for Brown’s revised May spending plan to get lawmaker attention.

More than 30 groups—including Children Now, California State Alliance of YMCAs and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles—want the state to spent about $76 million on raising the pay of workers that oversee after school activities, according to staff of the Assembly’s subcommittee on school finance.

The Alameda Early Care & Education Planning Council has called for $3.5 billion in additional spending to increase the number of child care slots for infants and to raise the reimbursement rate for providers.

The California Food Policy Advocates wants lawmakers to reinstate a supplemental grant for child care meals that was eliminated in 2012 and, once done, they want the grant increased. They say the proposal would support 72 million meals at a cost of $16.6 million.

Comp TIA, one of the country’s largest information technology advocacy groups, wants $100 million to establish a three-year pilot program for teaching coding in an after school setting.

On Tuesday, some of the proposals were brought forward to the Assembly’s education subcommittee, although lawmakers were careful to hold back any binding commitments.

The governor has already proposed some significant increases in spending to support early learners.

His January budget includes $32 million to provide a 2.8 percent rate increase for preschool expansion.

There is another $125 million earmarked to increase availability of child care and preschool options for infants through age five.

Legislative leaders and the governor agreed last summer to add $50 million into the 2017-18 budget to support after school programs statewide.