This column tends to focus on issues such as Black leadership, education and police malpractice. This week, it highlights, in some detail, the negative impact of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget cuts in child care for South Los Angeles and surrounding areas.
Crystal Stairs, Inc. provides administrative services to child care providers in Central and South Los Angeles as well as the cities of Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lawndale and Gardena. At a community forum in January hosted by State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, Crystal Stairs’ CEO Holly Mitchell presented, in illuminating detail, implications of the governor’s cuts in child care programs serving those most in need. Her remarks have broad application and are summarized here:
Crystal Stairs serves approximately 20,000 children from 7,000 families, helping to find and pay for child care in a 108 square mile service area. It focuses primarily on administering child care payments to providers for the care they offer and works with some 8,500 child care providers to help them enhance the quality of child care they offer.
Concerned with the entire family, Crystal Stairs offers wide assistance, ensuring that children are enrolled in the Healthy Families insurance program, helping parents to understand what quality child care looks like, offering conferences and technical resource training to child care providers, working with grandparents who may be parenting for the second time, and developing parents into community leaders with tools to fight for their children against draconian cuts such as the ones proposed this year.
Ms. Mitchell outlined the governor’s proposed cuts and discussed likely ramifications, especially for the working poor. His proposed budget includes the following: $198.9 million cut to child care programs, $479 million cut for CalWorks, eliminates child-only grants, deep cuts in supplemental security income for the elderly, disabled and foster-care programs, $1.1 billion in MediCal cuts that would effectively eliminate necessary medical for thousands of low-income people, those with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and children in foster care. The poorest of the working poor will be severely impacted.
Cuts to child care will also disproportionately impact families who have never been on cash aid, families who have struggled all their lives to make it without going on welfare. The families with low wage jobs, and have few if any benefits, are being told to dig even deeper into their already empty pockets to provide for their child care. These cuts are inexcusable.
The governor’s proposed cuts will affect some 17,500 children that rely on subsidized programs, 44 percent of whom live in low-income families, many below the federal poverty level. (Crystal Stairs will be forced to cut 350 children from 200 families from its general child care program each month.)
California is already last in the nation in terms of the number of annual inspections of licensed child-care facilities. Many states require quarterly or annual inspections; California inspects facilities once every five years. The proposed cuts guarantee inspections will happen only once every seven years.
Recent studies show that single mothers who receive help paying for child care are 40 percent more likely to remain employed after two years than those who receive no help. This demonstrates the repercussions not only to families, but also the state’s already fragile economy, that are likely to result from significant reductions in child-care subsidies. Child-care is actually an economic generator; the business of caring for and educating pre-school children generates $1.9 billion a year for the local economy and employs more than 65,000 people. Obviously, these cuts will further impair the budgets of both working families and local economies.
Those who give a damn should consider joining Crystal Stairs in denouncing the governor’s budget slashes as an egregious disservice to the entire community. It could also help ensure existing child care funding, already seriously insufficient, is not further eroded. Helping deserving children and families helps us all.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.