COSTA MESA — Now that the California budget has been passed, a local child-care program can depend on $286,000 that will help pay for teacher salaries and the rent at three Orange County locations.
Childs-pace, carried out daily at the Costa Mesa Downtown Recreational Center, between 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., is among those that are going to stay open.
The program serves dozens of Westside children before and after school. Since late spring, everybody at the center has been on pins and needles trying to figure out when the money was going to come in from the state.
While some of those very children played soccer on Thursday, oblivious to how close they came from being booted from the field, Childs-pace held a news conference, with supporters calling attention to how critical it is to have a state budget passed on time.
Among those present was Kimberly Claytor, president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, who used the opportunity to call for support for Proposition 25, the "On Time State Budget Act."
"Do you want children wandering the streets?" she asked. "If this program were to be eliminated and not receive the funding it needs and deserves, well, that's what we'd pretty much get: We'd have children with nowhere to go while their parents were out working."
The intent of the proposition is to change the law so the state Legislature would merely need a simple majority to pass the state budget — as opposed to the current two-thirds vote.
Claytor said the current law leads to "back-room" and "sweetheart" deals among politicians and special interest groups.
But opponents of Proposition 25 have long warned that since its inception on the ballot that the measure is "a hoax" that would make it easier for a simple majority to push through spending plans.
"It's a blank check for the Legislature to overspend and over-borrow with no accountability," according to a website opposed to the measure.
"There is nothing in Prop. 25 that guarantees that more spending and higher taxes will go to schools or other worthwhile programs," another site states. "It leaves it all up to the same Sacramento politicians who got us into this budget mess in the first place."
At Childs-pace, since late spring and early summer, the five teachers at the site in the 1800 block of Anaheim Street and the group's executive director, John LeVere, spent much of the summer trying to figure out ways to raise the half million dollars it takes to run the program in Costa Mesa, Anaheim and Buena Park.
The board president, Susan Kopicki, secured a line of credit by using her Newport Beach house.
"I was extremely fortunate that my credit union worked with me, that it understood the situation and processed the loan application in a professional way," Kopicki said. "Once I realized that we would have access to the money we would need to make it through to September, I could l sleep well again."
But she said she certainly didn't expect the budget agreement to be delayed past Labor Day.
Then, when October came, and there was still no state budget, she said she had wondered to herself — "Had we worked this hard to fail in the end?"
The short of it: "no."
The program in Costa Mesa, which serves 45 students from Pomona, Whittier and Rea elementary schools, will live to see another day, but LeVere said he was grateful to the city for allowing the program to carry out without having paid rent since July.
"They've become used to this," he said, of the dilemma in late state funding. "This place is home for many children who have no other place to go while their parents work. If you look around at all the shops around here in Triangle Square, a lot of these employees are working for minimum wage, and they can't afford day-care centers. They need a place to drop of their children while they work."
Maribel Rodriguez is a clerical coordinator for Hoag Hospital Memorial Presbyterian who drops off her child off at the center before work.
"I don't know what I'd do without this program," she said.
How To Help
A fundraising dinner will be held on Oct. 23 for $100 per person between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. at 300 East Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, inside the Newport Dunes Recreational Facility in the mobile home park. For more information for tickets, call John LeVere, executive director of Child-space, at (949) 548-8899.