Tamieka Wellington wishes she knew six months ago what she knows now — that the Hayward child care center that watches over her 3-year-old daughter might not be able to help her out much longer.
The 26-year-old enrolled in beauty college, and while she's perfecting her skills with scissors and a clipper, little Syah Todd is safe and sound, getting prepped at the Helen Turner Children's Center for her own approaching school days.
But cuts proposed in the governor's May budget have cast a shadow of uncertainty over such facilities — specifically the ones that offer no-cost or low-cost care — and if they are blacked out, parents say that darkness will spread like nightfall.
Wellington has no backup plan. Her cosmetology classes — along with time and money already spent — would have to go so she can watch Syah at home. No hair stylist job for Wellington, and no early education for Syah.
"Where's the success story?" she asked. "There won't be one. What's going to happen to us? Maybe we'll end up on welfare."
While the governor's proposed general child care cut was rejected by Assembly and Senate committees along with other measures that would have been crippling to low-income residents, Donita Stromgren of the California Childcare Resource and Referral Network said it's hard to say whether it's going to come back to the table.
"There is still a very large budget gap, and no way to know where those
And there's an immediate problem, particularly for day cares run by financially strapped school districts.
While the proposal might be too unpopular to make it into the final state budget, some school district administrators say they can't wait to find out; they must submit balanced spending projections to their county offices of education by June 30, well before the final state budget is usually passed.
In Hayward, where pink slips went out to scores of child care employees last month, doors may close July 15 and not reopen until late August — but only on a half-day basis, and for a limited number of kids.
The Berkeley school district is taking $300,000 from its general fund to keep the doors open through the end of August, but it has warned parents and teachers of a possible closure in the fall. Alameda Unified will decide what to do June 22, board member Mike McMahon said.
The Oakland school district's chief financial officer, Vernon Hal, said the district has no choice but to make the cuts — totaling nearly $15 million — immediately. To preserve some of its full-day preschools, district administrators might take $5 million from the adult education program, a move that would eliminate ESL, high school diploma and career technical education classes in the city.
"We're in a situation where it is robbing Peter to pay Paul," Hal said. "That's where we are."
Stromgren said if the cut does come down, it will be devastating.
There's a ripple effect. To work or go to school, parents need someone to watch their child. If they can't afford private care, their own occupation defaults to at-home parent unless they have relative to help them out.
"Maybe that used to be the case, years ago," Stromgren said. "Maybe grandmas and aunts weren't working themselves and could assist a family member. But it's not often the case anymore."
She cited calculations her group did with the California Department of Education that predict the cuts would affect 200,000 children across the state. About 100,000 working parents would have to quit their jobs. Plus 130,000 jobs related to the child care field would be lost.
But parents say the biggest blow would be to their children, who wouldn't get a head start in their education.
Myisha Myers, of Oakland, rings up customers at a McDonald's restaurant while her children Ania'myah, 4, and Aaron, 6, learn to read and write.
Ania'myah could spell her long name even before her fourth birthday, thanks to her teachers at Highland Childhood Development Center, a full-day preschool in East Oakland. By the time Aaron entered kindergarten at RISE Community School, Myers said, he knew how to read. He won second place in a spelling bee this year.
"I think they're going to be smart," Myers said. "They already are."
Paul Miller, executive director of Kidango, a nonprofit child care organization with numerous facilities in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, called it "diminishing the potential for long-term success."
Miller said that out of the 2,500 children at Kidango, 2,200 would be dropped if the cut comes down. About half would be from the Alameda County centers in Livermore, Fremont and Hayward.
Kidango is hoping for the best, and riding it out on a line of credit that won't last long.
"We're fairly confident we can go for two months," Miller said. "But if this (budget process) will continue until the end of October or later, we'll have to close."
Miller said he realizes the state is in an economic crisis and can sympathize with those making tough cuts. But only to a degree.
"I know the governor probably has other issues he wants to bring to the stand," he said. "But throwing children under the Hummer isn't the solution."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 510-293-2473. Contact Katy Murphy at 510-208-6424.