At the A-B-C Learning Center in North Sacramento, these three to five year old preschoolers start their day with hugs and a song…
But the Director and Owner of the state subsidized pre school program isn’t so light hearted… Barbara Whittaker says the situation she’s in is downright scary.
“I wake up at three o’clock in the morning, can’t go back to sleep wondering which bill I can pay, which bill I can’t pay.”
Whittaker says normally by this time of year she would have received about 80-thousand dollars from the state to operate her program. She offers both morning and afternoon sessions of pre-school and after school care to up to 80-kids—whose families are low income. Whittaker says she was prepared to deal with a late budget— up to a point.
“I kind of sock a little bit back just because we’ve gone through this several times before”
That little bit socked way—and a loan from her personal savings—got her through August. That month’s paychecks were the last she could afford for her six teachers and aides. To get through September and beyond, she’s dipping into her retirement funds. She says she’s angry at the legislature.
“Why don’t they just kinda, you know get their act together and stop this nonsense about every year not being able to meet a budget!”
Whittaker isn’t alone—there are nearly 800 child care agencies statewide that provide a range of services to about half-a-million low income children. Patty Siegel is the Executive Director of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. She says the uncertainty is also creating anxiety among low-income working parents.
“Because if they know that their provider isn’t being paid, then they start to worry about how secure the care is going to be and what is going to happen to their children.”
State Department of Education staff say they’re hearing stories just like Whittaker’s all over California. As for when they can expect relief— the Assembly Speaker says legislative leaders met this week to discuss the budget after a week of little contact. However there’s no sign yet that the budget gridlock will be over anytime soon.