On Friday, the California Legislature voted to pass a number of budget bills that now head to the governor’s desk, including one to provide an additional $265 million for California’s child care and preschool programs.

These programs have been a top priority for the Democratic members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, and over the past two years, the Women’s Caucus has helped restore more than half a billion dollars into these programs that had been cut during the economic downturn, resulting in the reinstatement of child care and preschool for 45,000 California children.

Yet even with this year’s additional funding, and despite record increases in Proposition 98 funding, the state will be offering 50,000 fewer child care slots than in 2008-09. Before the recession hit, California had approximately 200,000 children on a child care waiting list. Now, that need is estimated at close to 300,000.

In response to Friday’s action, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, chair, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, vice-chair, released the following statements:

“This funding in today’s budget represents a step forward for our state as we continue our work rebuilding and recovering from the recession,” Jackson said. “Yet we still have so far to go. We are the state’s seventh largest economy, yet we are still serving less than a quarter of all eligible children through our state child care programs. We may be known as a state of great innovation, yet we fail to meet the needs of all our youngest learners and prepare them well for school. We are a state of great wealth, and yet we continue to have the nation’s highest child poverty rate. Today’s budget is just the beginning of the work we must continue to make affordable, accessible, high-quality early care and education a priority for California.”

“Today’s investment in early care and education begins to improve the future of some Californians, but we have a way to go work before we level the playing field for all our children,” Garcia said. “As a math teacher, I saw the importance of equity in student’s early learning. When you give children a strong early learning environment, you level the playing field for them as they enter school, help teachers create a stronger learning environment, and invest in our future workforce. Simply put, early care and education is a critical component for our economy and our global competitiveness.”

— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.