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Parents, educators oppose cuts to early learning programs

Parents, education officials and children’s advocates gathered Monday at an Eagle Rock early learning center to oppose further cuts to development programs for California’s youngest and neediest pupils.

Faced with persistent budget shortfalls, state legislators have trimmed about $1.2 billion from subsidized child care and early childhood education programs since 2008, resulting in the loss of slots for some 100,000 children, according to figures provided by the Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group.

Legislators are now considering nearly $500 million in additional cuts that could deny care and early learning opportunities to 30,000 more children, many of them from families in which English is not the first language, said Kim Pattillo Brownson, the group's director of educational equity.

“We know and have considerable evidence to prove that early ed can really eliminate the achievement gap and actually level the playing field for children, rich and poor alike,” she said. "We think it is absolutely wrong-headed to balance the budget on the backs of young children."

The Toland Way Early Education Center, where protesters gathered before television cameras, is one of more than 20 such facilities slated to close this month in the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials said.

“I am very concerned about that,” said L.A. School Board member Bennett Kayser. “It means parents are not necessarily going to have a place for their children, not just to learn but to be safe during the school day so parents can work and support their families.”

Kayser is asking his fellow board members to adopt a resolution Tuesday urging Gov. Jerry Brown to rescind the proposed cuts, along with plans to shift responsibility for most early childhood programs from the state Department of Education to county welfare agencies.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has also criticized the proposals.

“If enacted, the impact of these proposals will be felt throughout Los Angeles County,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a motion adopted unanimously last month. “Ten thousand fewer children of low-income families will receive subsidized child development services; $150 million in child-care subsidies will be lost to the county, as will hundreds of child-care related jobs.”

More than 20 parents and children held up handmade posters Monday saying, “Save early education centers!” Some planned to join two buses headed to Sacramento at midnight to lobby legislators ahead of a deadline Friday to approve a state budget.

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-- Alexandra Zavis

 
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