July 22, 2019
At his inauguration, Governor Newsom exalted the California dream. “So deep does the California dream run in the history and character of our state that it can feel as enduring as our primeval forests or our majestic mountain ranges. But, there’s nothing inevitable about it. Every dream depends on the dreamers, and it’s up to us to renew the California dream for a new generation.”
As though on cue, the next generation of Newsom wandered on to stage and into his father’s arms. The Governor continued on, envisioning a California where every child is loved, fed, and safe, and parents of young children are supported. As his two-year-old son nuzzled into his neck, Newsom remarked, “There’s nothing more important—I hope you can tell—than giving them a good and happy life.”
Newsom’s promise to California’s children and families was signed into reality on June 27, 2019, when the state budget was enacted. The $214.78 billion dollar budget includes $103.4 billion dollars for k-12 education programs and roughly $5.5 billion for early childhood education and support for families.
Here’s the breakdown:
With the ultimate goal of universal access to high quality education and care, the state will create a new Master Plan for Early Learning and Care. Funded at $5 million, this strategic plan will establish a path to universal pre-K and expand paid family leave, among other goals. An Early Childhood Policy Council will be established to advise the Master Plan, with constituents including parents, providers, and representatives from state agencies. The Early Childhood Policy Council, funded at $2.2 million, will also advise the Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education Final Report.
The budget increases access to child care for thousands of families with low-incomes, enabling parents to work or attend classes while their children learn in a safe, caring environment. Through a $143.3 million ongoing investment, partially paid for by an $80.5 million Cannabis Fund and $12.8 million federal Child Care Development Fund, 12,400 more children will receive care through the Alternative Payment Program and the General Child Care Program. The California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program, designed to aid working parents with incomes below 85 percent of the state median income, received $228 million in ongoing funding. This expansion will allow additional work-related activities to ease the burden of work requirements and accommodate the 14,000 children recently accepted into the program.
To move toward universal pre-K, the state invested $31.4 million for the current fiscal year and $124.9 million ongoing into the California State Preschool Program (CSPP). Though this year’s budget eliminates the work requirements that previously prevented all families from receiving full-day care, children in families who work full-time are prioritized for enrollment. Eligibility was extended for all children living in a school attendance zone where more than 80 percent of children qualify for free and reduced priced lunch. Although CSPP is the largest state-funded pre-K program in the nation, at $932 million, the program earned six out of ten benchmarks for quality in the National Institute for Early Education Research’s 2018 State of Preschool Yearbook, demonstrating a need to improve quality alongside the mission for universal access.
Acknowledging the importance of elevating quality, the budget invests $460 million for facility and workforce improvements. Of that one-time fund, $245 million along with an additional $18 million transfer from the Child Care Facilities Revolving Loan Fund, will be leveraged over four years. The vast majority of this Early Learning and Infant Care Infrastructure Program will provide grants to child care and pre-K providers to expand facility capacity. Only five percent may be used for renovations and remediation of health and safety concerns.
The remaining quality investments will go to workforce development and data alignment. Over four years, the Early Learning and Care Workforce Development Program will allocate $195 million in grants for professional development and continuing education. The state’s new $20 million Early Learning and Care Data System will integrate statewide provider and recipient information and align seamlessly with the K-12 longitudinal data system.
A portion of the aforementioned $103.4 billion K-12 funding will serve young children, though elementary schools were not explicitly apportioned in the budget. One early childhood investment that was highlighted was a $300 million one time fund to construct or retrofit facilities to provide full-day kindergarten programs. Those funds are restricted to districts converting from part-day to full-day kindergarten classes, and are substantially increased from the $100 million investment in the Kindergarten Facilities Expansion Program in 2018-2019.
Combating childhood and intergenerational poverty are unequivocally critical. The budget expands the Earned Income Tax Credit to provide 3 million working families an additional $1,000 annually for food, rent, and child care. Another $331.5 million of this year’s budget and $441.8 million ongoing will increase the amount of financial support given by Maximum Aid Payments to CalWORKS participants from 38 percent currently up to 52.8 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, depending on local costs. Local child support agencies will receive $19.1 million to increase administrative capacity, which is expected to result in collection of hundreds of millions of dollars from the increase. Students at state colleges with dependent children may take advantage of the $96.7 million put towards CAL Grant Access Awards to earn a $4,000 to $6,000 stipend. Finally, children born in low income families will now have access to $50 million in one-time funding allocated to Child Savings Accounts.
Poor health and exposure to trauma can be barriers to children’s learning. To address this, California invested $30.8 million ongoing federal funds coupled with $23.1 million in state funds for new developmental screenings for children in the state Medi-Cal health care program. Trauma screenings for children and adults in Medi-Cal received $27.2 million in federal funding and $13.6 million in state funding, with the goal of identifying families and tailoring services to meet their needs. Trauma is not a new topic for California. The previous year’s budget launched a three year All Children Thrive pilot program for $10 million to engage localities in developing a comprehensive, city-wide approach toward trauma reduction.
Home visiting programs, in which a health or education professional provides individualized support for families of infants and young children, have been proven to bolster child development and school readiness, improve maternal health, and promote positive parenting practices. California’s new budget expands eligibility for their home visiting programs beyond first-time parents and broadens the range of models to meet families’ unique needs. The CalWORKs Home Visiting Initiative received $89.6 million for the current fiscal year, and $167 million ongoing funds from the state and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants. This funding is expected to serve 18,500 additional families. The California Home Visiting Program and the Black Infant Health Program received $34.8 million for the current fiscal year and $30.5 million ongoing state funding to support children at risk of trauma and support the health of African American mothers and infants.
California is one of only five states and D.C. to offer paid family leave. Beginning in July of 2020, families will be able to access eight weeks, rather than the current six weeks, of paid time off to bond with newborns or adopted children, care for an ill relative, or assist during a family member’s military deployment. Wages will be supplemented at 70 percent, with a cap at $1,252 per month. The Governor has expressed the goal of increasing wage supplementation to 90 percent and allowing families three to six months of paid family leave, depending on marital status.
While many of the programs in the budget will benefit young children and their families, critics suggest that the budget may have not done enough. Though professional development is prioritized, early childhood teachers’ working conditions, adequate salaries, and benefits are not. California’s weak requirements for pre-K teachers were ignored, despite the evidence that increased credentials result in higher quality pre-K learning environments. New questions have also been raised after Newsom vetoed a local tax increase intended to expand access to child care services for working families. The budget is the integral first step, and now the capable team Newsom has assembled can turn their attention to the arduous challenges of sustainability and implementation.
The innumerable ways in which young children’s futures are being protected in California goes far beyond care and education. Their strong funding for environmental protections, clean water, and access to affordable housing will inevitably improve children’s well-being. With a state budget that heavily invests in families and a Governor committed to California’s children, the future looks sunny on the golden coast.
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