California Improves Education Access to Low Income Parents

The state of California continues to lead the charge in progressive social policies, especially in terms of access to education.  This will be the first week since Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a new policy which will remove some obstacles to education for low income parents: those enrolled in either English as a Second Language (ESL) courses or high school equivalency courses will be eligible for subsidized child care.

Previously, the education code in California said that parents who meet particular income criteria and are “engaged in vocational training leading directly to a recognized trade” could be eligible for this child care subsidy. However, while parents may need to enroll in one of these classes to be eligible, the law was not, previously, clear on what might qualify.

According to Parent Voices, California lead organizer Jennifer Greppi, “This law was being unevenly implemented across the state.  Some [child care] agencies saw it very clearly as a step towards a vocational training or goal. Others were like, ‘Nope! Those don’t count.’”

As such, Parent Voices and the Women’s Foundation of California partnered to present AB 273.  The co-sponsored bill adds new language to the previous law which states more explicitly that parents can receive this child care subsidy if they are “engaged in an educational program for English language learners or to attain a high school diploma or general educational development certificate.”

In addition, the United States Department of Education will be sending out a bulletin to all child care providers and preschool programs they fund to ensure families can no longer be turned away.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine just how many families might have been “turned away” or how many might be looking for such a program.  The potential for impact, though, could be massive. After all, California has the highest proportion of adults with limited English proficiency and lowest proportion of adults with high school diploma compared against other states, as described by the California Budget and Policy Center.  In addition, more than half of low-income children in the state of California—about 1.6 million—have parents who fall into both data points.

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