(Sacramento, CA)- Head Start California was disappointed to see that, despite a record-breaking $97.5 billion surplus, Governor Gavin Newsom declined to include funding for Head Start teacher salaries in his May Revise budget proposal.
Head Start programs provide high-quality early learning and care, access to medical, dental and immunization services, and supportive services and leadership opportunities for parents. But profoundly inadequate wages mean that programs have struggled to hire and retain the teachers needed to keep classrooms open. Statewide, up to 21 percent of California’s federal investment in Head Start, or $270 million, is at risk of being lost due to under-enrollment due to teacher vacancies.
“The Governor’s own Master Plan for Early Learning and Care and his previous budget statements have stated the need to support the mixed delivery system, to improve access to care for infants and toddlers, to offer specialized services to homeless children, children with disabilities and dual language learners. Head Start does all of that,” stated Head Start California Executive Director Christopher Maricle. “Head Start is nationally recognized as a model program. We’re asking California to invest a nickel on the dollar in order to protect a federal investment of more than a billion dollars that goes directly to high-quality early learning services.”
The urgency of providing improved teacher salaries is more acute now than ever before. A recent federal change allowing SNAP recipients to receive Head Start services means more families can access Head Start’s life-changing services, but only if programs can hire teachers for the classroom. “We were all so excited when the SNAP ruling came through, and then the mood in the room flipped immediately because we know we don’t have the staff,” stated Lynne Moore-Kerr, the Program Director of Alameda Family Services, a Head Start grantee.
“You can’t have high-quality programs without high-quality teachers. The work our teachers do provides a huge return on investment for society in so many ways,” stated Head Start Board President Stacey Scarborough. “Head Start California supports the Governor’s vision of providing early learning opportunities to all four-year-olds, but we can’t forget families with younger children, and families with needs that go beyond just early learning.”
The Governor’s budget does include some key early childhood priorities, including continuing to waive family fees and reimbursing state child care programs based on enrollment rather than attendance. However, in failing to support increased state-subsidized provider wages beyond what was negotiated last year and failing to support Head Start salaries at all, the Governor misses a critical opportunity to protect access to whole-child, whole-family services for vulnerable families across the state. This comes at a time when families face increasing costs from all directions – protecting access to early learning by supporting teacher salaries should be a top priority.
Head Start California urges the Governor and the Legislature to protect California’s federal investment and the opportunity for high-quality early learning for tens of thousands of children by allocating $50 million to support Head Start teacher salaries, as well as the rest of the request of the ECE Budget Coalition, in the final 2022-23 budget.
Head Start California is the premier advocacy organization for Head Start agencies throughout California. Head Start California advocates for its members at the federal, state and local county level ensuring that members speak with a unified voice about the challenges facing California’s most vulnerable families, and the Head Start community that serves them.