Bay Citizen, “Child Care Centers Remain Open, for Now” (July 30, 2010)
“Child Care Centers Remain Open, for Now: Oakland parents get a reprieve, but state budget cuts still loom”
Katharine Mieszkowski, SF Bay Citizen [July 30, 2010]
Seven centers, which were scheduled to shut down, will remain open through the end of August, thanks to $400,000 in federal stimulus money, which the district reallocated at the last minute. The centers, which serve children who are in pre-K through third grade, are threatened by the state budget crisis. Even though a budget hasn’t been finalized, the school district is already feeling the pain.
“We’re not getting any new revenue from the state until the budget is passed, so as a stopgap measure we were going to have to close at least seven sites effective on Monday, August 2nd,” said Troy Flint, a spokesman for the school district.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting $1.2 billion from early childhood education in his May revised budget. If that cut makes it into the final state budget, Oakland Unified School District would lose about $13 million of its approximately $18 million budget for the 30 centers it now operates, according to Flint. Schwarzenegger’s budget would also eliminate all funding for child care for school-age children, he said.
Some 70 percent of the students in the district are low-income, and many of their parents rely on the heavily subsidized centers for care. Keeping the centers open through August will allow the school-age children to be moved to after-school programs once the school term begins. In anticipation of the fall closures, younger children are already being reassigned to the district’s remaining 23 centers. If Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts to early childhood education are ultimately adopted, some of those centers could face closure too.
The federal stimulus money, which will keep the centers open for another month, had been earmarked for professional development for teachers in low-income schools.
While parents are relieved that the centers will be kept open through the end of the month, some say that the after-school programs won’t fully be able to fill the place of the centers for older kids.
“It’s an OK substitute, during the school year, but during the summertime our kids don’t have any place to go,” said Laurice Brown of East Oakland.
Four of Brown’s nine children attend the Manzanita Early Childhood Center, which is near the elementary school that the first, second and third graders attend. Right now, Brown is able to drop off her kids at the center at 7:30 a.m., before driving to her office job in downtown Oakland at 8 a.m.
In the fall, she’ll have to drop her kids off at school before the doors open at 8 a.m. “You’re just leaving your children with no supervision, and that’s difficult,” she said. “Many parents are worried: What’s going to happen to their children before school?”
Some parents, like Brown, feel so strongly about keeping the centers open that they were planning to occupy them to keep them from shutting down. “I was prepared to be arrested, because it’s so important to me that the children have a safe place to go,” she said.