The undersigned organizations urge you to prioritize kids in your upcoming May Revise budget proposal. We appreciate that you are being inundated by numerous interests. We also recognize that even with a budget surplus, the state can’t sufficiently meet every need and supplement federal investments in every area. As you make tough choices and determine your priorities, we urge you to put kids at the top of the list. The learning loss, isolation, serious mental health issues, and lack of preventive health care because of the pandemic threatens a generation of kids. These outcomes are especially dire for Black and brown children, kids in poverty, students who are English Learners, youth in foster care, and children who are in unsafe situations, all of whom face significant systemic barriers to accessing the services and support they need.
Even before COVID-19, California was not prioritizing kids, especially kids that face systemic barriers to their well-being. Our investments lagged far behind most other states, as did most measures of educational attainment and overall children’s well-being. Now the situation is mission critical.
The undersigned call on you to prioritize dollars for supports for kids, across the early childhood, family and economic support, health, K-12 and higher ed, housing, and child welfare domains. Priority items for the May Revise include:
Child care: Invest a minimum of $5 billion ($1.25 billion in new state funding on top of the $3.75 billion in federal funding California expects to receive) to stabilize, strengthen and scale child care, including: $1.5 billion for stipends, hold harmless measures, elimination of family fees, restoring swept workforce and facility block grants, and rebuild ECE capacity with reopening assistance; $1.5 billion which would update provider reimbursement rates to 2018 levels and create a dedicated multi-year set-aside to implement comprehensive rate reform in 2021-22 and beyond; and $2 billion to expand child care subsidies for families with low incomes, with at least $1 billion dedicated to infants and toddlers.
TK-14 Education: Ensure there are effective student supports in place and school budgets are stabilized by using one-time federal funds provided for state-level education activities ($1.4 billion) to recruit and retain teachers and provide high-quality professional learning for educators; paying off debts to TK-12 schools and community colleges ($3.7 billion); and providing the funding to expand and ensure educationally appropriate practices (group sizes and curriculum) are in place for transitional kindergarten.
School based mental health: Provide $80.5 million to fund turn-key school-county partnerships ready for implementation. These partnerships will help prevent student mental health concerns from becoming severe and disabling; increase timely access to services; participate in outreach to recognize early signs; reduce stigma; reduce discrimination; and prevent negative outcomes.
Medi-Cal: Permanently extend Medi-Cal coverage for children up to age 5 and for women 12-months postpartum with $55 million (matched with $55 million in federal funds).
Children in foster care: Support children and youth in foster care living with emergency caregivers or resource families with $73.2 million in desperately needed pandemic stipends to address significant additional responsibilities and activities and $37 million to increase access to the Emergency Child Care Bridge program to prevent placement instability resulting from reduced child care options.
We recognize the strain you are experiencing as you try to grapple with the enormity of this crisis and keep the Golden State intact. We urge you to ensure that our most precious constituency, our kids, are your top priority.