OAKLAND -- Thousands of families who were slated to lose their state-subsidized child care this week have been granted another reprieve. Alameda Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill on Friday ordered the state to temporarily extend services the governor cut from the budget.
The judge granted the stay at least until Nov. 23, when he might take up the issue at a hearing. But the ruling was a victory for child care advocates who sued the California Department of Education last week, saying the agency failed to notify families that they might be eligible for other subsidized child care programs.
Kate Ertz-Berger, director of the Contra Costa Child Care Council, said that as she read the judge's 18-page ruling, "It was clear to me that he understood the devastation that this would cause families." Last week, Carvill extended the services for four days. In Friday's order, he wrote that the department of education needed to inform families enrolled in the program that child care contractors were available to screen them and to help find other placements for their children.
In the meantime, he wrote, families would continue to receive child care. An estimated 54,000 children were initially slated to lose their child care slots on Monday after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto power to cut $256 million in welfare-to-work funding from the state budget. The program he cut, known as CalWORKs Stage 3, provided reduced-cost child care for
Unless they find an affordable alternative, some parents have said, they face the prospect of having to leave their jobs -- and, potentially, go back on welfare.
Some state lawmakers, including Assemblymember Sandre Swanson and Sens. Loni Hancock and Ellen Corbett, have said they will try to overturn the governor's veto when the state Legislature reconvenes next month. In the meantime, local First 5 preschool commissions are considering whether to provide loans to keep the services going until then. The commissions in Alameda and Contra Costa counties agreed Monday to do so.
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said that despite "the small reprieve" the ruling provided to the families involved, he remained "extremely concerned" about the child care cuts. He said he would work with Gov.-elect Jerry Brown and the Legislature to restore the funding.
"In the meantime, the California Department of Education will comply with the Judge's order by directing our contractors to immediately issue notices to families receiving Stage 3 services that child care will continue pending further directive and notice from the California Department of Education," he wrote.