Subsidized child care shrinks locally

Passage of Prop. 30 may avoid more drastic cuts
2012-11-11T17:59:00Z 2012-11-11T18:14:00Z Subsidized child care shrinks locallyISABELLE DILLS Napa Valley Register
November 11, 2012 5:59 pm  • 

Approximately 1,000 Napa County children are on a waiting list to get into subsidized child care — but their odds of finding care decreased further with the recent closure of a local preschool.

The Yountville Preschool Child Development Program shut down Nov. 2, becoming the fourth facility the Napa County Office of Education has closed due to state budget cuts.

NCOE, which relies almost entirely on state and federal funds, decided to close the preschool after losing approximately $150,000 in preschool funding in July.

Last year, the preschool program took about a $300,000 cut, which led to the closure of three child care programs for elementary school–aged children: the Phillips Child Development Center, as well as development centers at Napa Valley Language Academy and Yountville Elementary.

Since July, the Yountville preschool was serving about 11 kids — all of whom found alternative care. Five of the children will remain in preschools run by NCOE. Two were given scholarships or stipends to a private preschool near Yountville, and the rest will attend Los Niños, which is run by Community Action Napa Valley.

Other local organizations that offer subsidized child care are Napa Valley College, Community Resources for Children and Napa Valley Adult Education.

With the Yountville closure, NCOE has only two full-day preschools available to families — one in St. Helena and one in Napa, located off Imola Avenue. NCOE also operates part-day preschools. Program-wide, these facilities serve about 240 kids.

If voters on Nov. 6 hadn’t passed Proposition 30 — Gov. Jerry Brown’s temporary tax-increase initiative — child care development programs would have faced “drastic cuts,” said Andrea Knowlton, director of NCOE’s Early Childhood Services.

Proposition 30 will provide funding for education by raising the state sales tax by a quarter-cent for the next four years and increasing the state income tax on the wealthiest Californians for seven years.

While preschool programs are a necessity for most working parents, they also serve to educate and prepare children for kindergarten, Knowlton said.

“If they don’t start out with a quality early education, they will start kindergarten behind their peers,” Knowlton said.

To qualify for one of NCOE’s preschool programs, a parent must work a minimum of 32 hours a week, be going to school, or actively looking for work. Tuition is adjusted by income — for example, a family of four with a monthly income of $2,340 would pay a full-time daily fee of $3.

Families can qualify for free care if their monthly income is below a certain amount. Families who exceed the monthly income ceilings are not allowed to enroll.

The Napa Child Development Center, located off Imola Avenue, is the largest of NCOE’s full-day preschool facilities. The center currently has 45 kids enrolled, ages 3 to 5, who are divided into two classrooms, with three adults — teachers and assistants — in each room.

About 15 to 20 of these children qualify for free care, 12 qualify for special education services, and 90 percent of the children speak Spanish, according to staff.

Both classrooms at the Napa center are colorful, cozy, clean spaces with short bookshelves and tables dividing the room into different “learning spaces.” Children work on fine motor skills with arts and crafts, puzzles and blocks.

There also are areas dedicated to writing, science and reading. One section of the classroom, dedicated to real-world imagination play, is given different themes throughout the year. Currently, the space is being used as a pretend grocery store, where students can use Raley’s grocery baskets to shop for food and then use a toy cash register and fake money at check-out.

During recess, children have a full backyard and playground facility with slides, a tire swing, and paths for tricycles and wagons.

Maryanne Rijkers, site supervisor for the Napa Child Development Center, said that with so many families on the waitlist for child care, she never has any problems filling an open spot. Despite the demand, the budget cuts over the past few years make her — and the center’s parents — increasingly “nervous,” Rijkers said.

“You never know if it’s going to be your place, your job, or your families being affected,” she said. “Families get very panicky.”

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(4) Comments

  1. glenroy
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    glenroy - November 12, 2012 8:32 am
    Does anyone remember how it was back before having children without means was the norm?
    They use to teach girls and boys in middle school the cost of parenting, food, medical, diapers then disposables today...maybe would should 'invest' in teaching children not to have children until they can afford to have children?
  2. Dr_Faustus
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    Dr_Faustus - November 12, 2012 9:09 am
    It was also possible in those times to care for a family of three from the earnings of almost any forty-hour job.
  3. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - November 12, 2012 12:07 pm
    We should not be subsidizing people to have children, period, unless there's a catastrophic event. It used to be that we subsidized because of catastrophic events and now it seems it has become the norm to have children with the expectation that society will raise them.

    Also Dr. Faustus, I agree with many of your ideas, but if the economy is poor, people should be using birth control and PLANNING families. If their earnings are low, they ought to rethink bringing babies into the world who essentially end out being raised and subsidized by others.

    As moderately liberal as I am, this is one area where I tend to be fiscally conservative. I am asking young couples to be responsible and to not expect others to take over the role of raising their children.

    I anticipated a day would come when these cutbacks would happen. Sadly, it will come at a cost to either taxpayers, in some other form, or to the children. Child subsidy should not be the only answer.Let's educate about family planning
  4. Lynn W
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    Lynn W - November 13, 2012 11:37 am
    I'm sorry but I do not feel like taxpayers should fund pre-school or college. Adults need to be responsible for their choices. Parents need to prepare their children for K-12 not the state. College is for the serious and serious candidates will find a way to pay for continuing their education.
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