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California

L.A. councilman floats idea of ballot measure to fund child care

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 -Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian representing the
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, shown in 2016, said he wants to protect programs for young children from the ups and downs of municipal budgeting.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian said Wednesday that he wants the city to pursue a ballot measure to fund programs for young children — and could put the issue before voters as soon as next year.

In a newly released proposal, the councilman is asking city staffers to report back on ways to expand licensed child care programs at the Department of Recreation and Parks. Krekorian said that before the last recession, the department offered licensed child care programs at 26 facilities. Now, he said, that number has plummeted to just two.

Among his suggestions was a ballot measure like those pursued in San Francisco, where voters narrowly approved a tax increase to fund child care last year. Doing so, he said, could help protect programs for young children from the ups and downs of municipal budgeting.

When the city has to make hard choices about its budget, Krekorian said, “I don’t want our children to be the victims of those hard choices.”

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His proposal, which calls for city staffers to report back on a possible ballot measure and other public and private funding options, was backed by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who joined Krekorian at a news conference Wednesday, as well as Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Child care and early childhood education in California are funded through a complex patchwork of government programs. Those publicly funded programs do not have room to serve all of the California children who are eligible, with access especially crimped for infants and toddlers, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute.

In Los Angeles County, licensed centers and family child care homes only have capacity to serve 13 percent of working parents with infants and toddlers, Krekorian said in his proposal, citing a 2017 county and First5LA study. In California, “it costs more to pay for child care and early education than it costs to send a student to the California State University system,” he said.

“This is imposing an unbelievably difficult burden on working families. It is hurting our ability to build the economy of the future. And it is depriving these young children of the best opportunity that they’ll have to succeed later in life,” Krekorian told reporters Wednesday.

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Those problems are especially acute for poorer families, said Kim Pattillo Brownson, vice president of policy and strategy for First 5 LA, a public agency focused on early childhood education. Only 6% of L.A. County working families with babies and toddlers who are eligible for child care services, based on income, actually receive those services, she told reporters.

Krekorian also suggested that the city look into possible funding in the state budget proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The councilman said Wednesday that he did not know what expanding such programs might cost, but said that he envisioned that any subsidies would be based on financial need.

The proposal now heads to council committees focused on education and economic development for further review.

emily.alpert@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlpertReyes


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