Unanimous support in committee for child care bill

SHEREEN LEE / AGGIE

AB 2292 to expand child care services, funds

A recent California Assembly bill, AB 2292, championed by Yolo County Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, proposes improvements to the child care system. By establishing the Early Education Expansion Program, the bill’s goal is to provide better access to high-quality child care and education programs for infants as well as toddlers. AB 2292 proposes to establish grant programs to fund both child care facilities and the recruitment of skilled child care workers. The bipartisan bill made it through the education committee’s hearing with unanimous support. It is now on its way to the appropriations committee.

“There is a child care crisis going on in the whole nation,” said Sandy Batchelor, the work-life coordinator at UC Davis, who works alongside student parents.

First 5 California, a state agency focused on supporting innovative investments in young children, is sponsoring AB 2292. Erin Gabel, the deputy director of First 5 California, is hopeful about the changes this bill could bring. Gabel, who specializes in child care policy, asserts that there is a desperate need for this type of legislation.

“We provide almost no assistance in the state of California to families,” Gabel said. “14 percent of infants and toddlers, 38 percent of 3-year-olds and 67 percent of 4-year-olds have access to […] subsidized help. And everyone else is paying out of pocket for the entire state.”

First 5 California is in support of this bill, as it addresses the need for a better rate of funding per child, which will improve ratios between children and child care providers.

“The brain science coming out of Harvard and the University of Washington […] shows how crucial the first three years of life are, where 85 percent of a child’s brain capacity develops during that time,” Gabel said.

Kim Krukle, the executive director of the Child Care Law Center, recognizes the flaws within the child care system and is in support of the bill.

“What we are doing to the children in California right now is criminal,” Krukle said. “We leave everybody out to fend for themselves to deal with the most important thing in our life, which is a young child.”

The Child Care Law Center advocates for everyone involved in child care. Krukle applauds the efforts of AB 2292, as it is tackling the structural issues within the child care system.

“Every single step that a legislator makes […] to help better fund and improve early child care services for children is a step in the right direction,” Krukle said.

Those who see a need for affordable and high-quality child care argue that a bill like this is a necessity.

“There is a shortage of quality, reliable, affordable care, and that is a nation-wide issue,” Batchelor said.

Batchelor has seen firsthand the struggles student parents face. In regard to the bill, Batchelor is hopeful that it will help address parents’ financial needs.

“It [AB 2292] will not only address the financial, but it will improve the capacity […] the other thing is that it’s going to create more choices for child care,” Batchelor stated.

Focusing on improving capacity is a prevalent concern among child care advocacy groups as well.

“We have seen a 30 percent decrease in licensing capacity over the last few years in California […] so we are needing to recruit a new generation of licensed child care workers into the workforce,” Gabel said.

This bill, however, does more than attempt to improve just surface-level issues.

“We can’t just keep funding child care spaces without addressing the structural problems […] that’s what this bill is about,” Gabel said.

Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry’s AB 2292 has passed uncontested through the education committee. It’s been estimated that the creation of the Early Education Expansion Program will cost $167 million to establish. The status of this bill will be determined as it is assessed within the appropriations committee.

 

Written by: Cassidy Kays — city@theaggie.org