February 12, 2019
Dear BOOST Breakfast Club Executive Chef,
I understand that I committed to providing you a blog post as of February 11th, but I regret to inform you that this is no longer possible, given my current workload.
As you may know, the California Expanded Learning field, of which I have been a proud member for 27 years, is facing unprecedented challenges that threaten our continued existence.
After School Education and Safety (ASES) programs receive $8.19 per student, per day to provide comprehensive expanded learning services from school dismissal until 6:00 pm. That’s only 9% more than we were getting twelve years ago. Over that same time period, the California Consumer Price Index has increased by nearly 30%, which means that our $8.19 is worth about $5.75 in 2007 dollars.
But it’s much worse than that. Our primary cost driver is personnel, given that we are required (for good reason) to maintain supervision ratios of not more than 20 students to one staff member. The California minimum wage has increased 50% over the last five years and will continue to rise each of the next three years. Now, our employees certainly deserve to be paid better than the minimum wage but let me break it down for you. For every additional dollar we pay in employee wages we incur approximately $7,500 in additional personnel expense per school. So, a typical elementary program serving an average daily attendance of 84 students is about $30,000 (or 25%) more expensive than it was in 2014.
And where is that extra money coming from? If I knew, I’d have time to write a blog about it. The California Department of Finance has suggested that it should come from local school districts, but our school district partners have told us to expect less, not more, financial support in the coming years. Apparently, they have their own fiscal issues to deal with, like pension deficits, for example. Others have suggested that we charge parents a modest fee to cover the shortfall, but it’s not that simple. Schools qualify for these ASES grants because they serve a high percentage of families living in poverty. These funds are intended to provide a safety net for those who cannot afford child care, just as schools provide free meals to students who might go hungry otherwise. How do you think those schools would react if they were suddenly asked to charge every student a dollar a day for lunch? And what would they do with the kids whose families couldn’t pay?
The extra money we’re talking about is $112 million, or 0.0015% of the state’s education budget and only 4% of the increased education funding proposed for the next fiscal year.
Californians believe, as nearly all Americans do, that every child has the right to an education. We believe every child has the right to be cared for. And the majority of us believe that every child has the right to be safe and supervised during the hours after school, as evidenced by the passage of Proposition 49 in 2002, but more than 400,000 students across this state are at genuine risk of losing that right, and nobody seems to be paying much attention, including our new Governor who promised that “access to high-quality after-school programs” was among his top priorities.
So, I’m sorry I’m too busy trying to figure out, along with my colleagues, how we’re going to make it through another year to spend any of my time thinking of a good idea for a blog post. Wait, how many words was that? Fine, that will have to do.
For breakfast this morning I had coffee and the cereal my son didn’t finish.