Sandra Espinel’s 7-year-old twin sons are enrolled in the
state-subsidized early education program at Emerson Elementary
School. Espinel, a single working parent, pays a sliding scale fee of
$26.25 a week for her boys to be in the program.
If she had to pay for private child care, Espinel said she would
not have enough money for rent, and might have to give up her job and
go on welfare.
But with the state drowning in a deficit of billions of dollars,
Gov. Gray Davis has proposed that the program be turned over to
counties, removing the guarantee of state funding. If the Legislature
accepts Davis’ plan, the Burbank Unified School District’s early
education centers, as well as other similar programs throughout the
state, could be substantially reduced or eliminated when funds are
exhausted in June.
If the county administers the program, the money might come from
block grants, which would lead to the district having to compete
against other groups -- like senior programs -- for the funds, said
Goldie Bemel, the district’s director of child development programs.
“Close to half a million parents will be without child care
[statewide],” Bemel said. “What are those parents going to do?”
The children’s centers at Emerson, Washington and Bret Harte
elementary schools are paid for out of the state’s fund for general
child-care programs. These three centers also include preschool
classes, which are also paid for by the same fund. The district also
has state-subsidized before- and after-school programs at every
elementary school, except Emerson.
Only two preschool classes at Edison and one at Bret Harte
Elementary School are exempt from the governor’s proposed cuts,
because state funding designates these preschool programs as
educational, while the others are considered just child care, Bemel
About 600 children are enrolled in the local programs, and the
district receives $3 million in state money to operate them, Bemel
Eva Contis, a single mother who teaches in the Los Angeles Unified
School District, has a 4-year-old son in Emerson’s preschool.
“I’m a school teacher, so I know how important it is for children
to be ready for school,” she said.
Her son recognizes words and letters, which Contis said is
“To take this away from lower-income families is a crime,” she
said. “Preschool shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be something
everyone has access to.”