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Preschool funding takes $1B budget cut

Local officials fret over provisions for program after vote cuts more than $400M from L. A. County

Posted: March 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

California lawmakers voted this week to cut $1 billion from a statewide children’s agency, raising concerns that money for low-cost preschool programs in the Santa Clarita Valley could be reduced.

The reduction was part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to close California’s $25 billion budget hole.

The action means $1 billion will be taken from First 5 California, which provides programs for children and families.

First 5 California funds Los Angeles Universal Preschool, a nonprofit that provides low-cost preschool to families across Los Angeles County.

Nearly 200 children in five preschools in the Santa Clarita Valley are enrolled in low-cost preschool programs run by Los Angeles Universal Preschool.

The majority of Los Angeles Universal’s $55 million budget comes from First 5, according to Celia C. Ayala, CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool.

Officials with Los Angeles Universal Preschool and First 5 are trying to figure out how much money they will lose for children’s services programs.

The funding cuts’ effects will be apparent after July 1, when the new fiscal year begins, Ayala said.
First-glance estimates show that First 5 Los Angeles could lose up to $424 million for programs across Los Angeles County.

“We do know that just by the mere threat of the $1 billion (cut), all programs are impacted,” Ayala said.

The cuts come as Los Angeles Universal Preschool programs in the Santa Clarita Valley have grown with high demand.

The two preschool programs at Mountainview and Santa Clarita elementary schools are already full with 48 students, said Michelle Morse, Saugus Union’s director of child development programs.

And there is a waitlist of up to 50 kids in case a spot at the low-cost preschool opens during the year.

The standard rate for a five-day preschool program within the Saugus Union School District is $438 a month, she said.
Parents who make it into the low-cost program pay $250 a month.

Preschool is often seen as the opportunity for kids to learn basic socialization and academic skills in a classroom setting.

“Any strong, high-quality preschool program provides students with a solid foundation for their entrance into the formal world of learning,” Morse said. “We want to give children the confidence they need to be strong learners in the future.”

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