The Democratic members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus held a press conference Tuesday to outline their budget priorities, and underscored the need for a budget that prioritizes the needs of working women and parents and the education of young children as a critical first step to closing the achievement gap.
In letters sent to leaders of both houses of the Legislature and signed by 22 Democratic members of the Women’s Caucus, as well as in a similar letter sent to the governor, they requested that the following be included in the 2014-15 budget and be prioritized in negotiations:
» More funding for child care so California women can start and keep working: Strengthen access to state-supported early care and education by funding approximately 40,000 additional slots for 40,000 children, estimated to cost approximately $300 million, and directed at programs that provide full-time care and serve parents who work varied schedules. Since 2007-08, approximately 100,000 slots — nearly a quarter of the total available slots — have been cut from California’s state-supported child care and preschool system.
» Higher quality early childhood education: Strengthen the quality of state-supported early care and education for 0-5 year-olds by investing $25 million in quality improvement, parent support, provider education and training and other needs.
» Fair pay for early care and education providers, most of them women: Modernize providers’ reimbursements rates, which have been frozen since 2007, at a cost of approximately $300 million. The majority of early care and education providers are women. Without this increase, child care providers are less likely to sustain their businesses and will be forced to leave the field for higher paid positions, leaving California with a lack of providers.
» Expand access to preschool to close the achievement gap: Begin to appropriate funding necessary to expand access to state preschool for the lowest income children first to ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten. Provide sufficient funding to ensure access for children of working parents with full-day programs.
“We are in the midst of an economic recovery, and we want to ensure that that recovery doesn’t leave women and children behind. Early childhood education keeps California women working and children learning, “ said Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D- Long Beach, who is chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “Funding 40,000 additional slots of affordable care will mean more women can afford to go back to work or keep working, and this will benefit families, employers and our economy.”
“If we saw someone shut a door on a child trying to head into a classroom, or steal a book from their hand, we’d call them cruel. We’d say that was unacceptable. Yet in the past few years, as the result of budget cuts, we have done exactly that to too many of our youngest children. We have cut early childhood education to the bone, and it is our future that suffers,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who is vice-chair of the Women’s Caucus. “This is not the “new normal” we want for this state. We need to begin to re-envision the future we want for California’s women and children and we want that future to begin with this budget and our youngest learners.”
The California Legislative Women’s Caucus is a bicameral, bipartisan caucus of female legislators who advocate on behalf of women, children and families in the California Legislature. Twenty-three members are Democrats.
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.