In honor of today’s national “Day Without Child Care,” the Assembly proposed a billion dollars cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) from the state budget to bolster California’s child care system in an effort to stabilize the industry and help parents struggling to find providers. Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting and Legislative Women’s Caucus Vice-Chair Cecilia Aguiar-Curry unveiled the State Assembly’s Budget Plan for the “Care COLA,” increasing child care funding by 25.44%. The figure accounts for unfunded inflation since 2016. The move is the first step in a multi-year effort currently being collectively bargained between the Governor and Child Care Providers United, which is the child care workers’ new statewide union.
“Child care plays an important role in our economy because it enables parents to work. While this budget plan is just a down payment on California’s goal of funding the real cost of child care, it also shows providers that we value them and want more people to work in the field. This first investment will move the child care industry away from the poverty wages that have been in effect since 2016 and are still paid today. We are insisting on the down payment now,” said Assemblymember Ting.
According to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation has increased by 25.44 percent between July 2016 and March 2023, which is the same figure the Assembly is using. Many facilities and workers have left because provider rates have not kept up. In fact, increases at the state level have stalled, as the State has been waiting for CalHR to reach a labor agreement with newly unionized child care workers before extending rate increases to the entire child care field.
The final 2021-22 Budget deal included historic goals to serve 200,000 more children in California’s state-supported child care programs, and to meet the Governor’s Master Plan for Early Learning’s ambitious goal to fully fund the real cost of child care. However, the actual funded rates remain stuck at what the private child care market charged in 2016. More than one-third of the state’s child care access expansion is still not serving families, and insufficient per-child funding rates is a huge driver in leaving child care options unused.
“Child care keeps California working, but providers are closing their doors. Families are still waiting on long waitlists and missing work. The child care system is collapsing and we can’t continue to stand still,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, the Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance chair and long-time champion of Universal Preschool. “California has so much to celebrate with the sunrise of Universal Preschool, but child care providers can’t serve kids without the money.”
“California is one of the most expensive states for parents who need child care services, and we need to ensure that families can afford to keep their child care when the family fee waiver expires,” said Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, author of a three-year campaign to make child care more affordable for working families. “By keeping child care affordable, we will ensure that parents can remain in the workforce and achieve economic stability.”
Legislative Women’s Caucus Vice-Chair Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) expressed her ongoing frustration and that of her Caucus colleagues. “Our children’s care providers deserve every bit as much respect as any public servant. We cannot short them as they work every day doing one of the most important jobs in our State. They are one of the most essential members of the “village” it takes to raise our children to live healthy and productive lives,” she said.
“I am proud of the Assembly’s undaunted leadership on child care and universal preschool over decades,” concluded Speaker-Designate Robert Rivas. “We will continue to fight for working families and our littlest learners.”
As the Legislature works toward meeting the June 15th budget deadline, Assembly Leadership confirmed today that this child care package is a priority and a key investment in supporting California’s working economy.