Nearly half of Sacramento City Unified’s preschool children will be transitioned into other childcare programs as the district slashes its budget to try to avert a state takeover, according to program employees.
Grappling with a $35 million budget gap, district officials are cutting programs, and children will be serviced by other providers. The programs include the Early Head Start for infants and toddlers, preschool programs, in-house programs for children with medical ne, and prenatal education.
The Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, a joint effort by the city and county, supports the federally funded Head Start program and state funded programs with $6.5 million. But the district has been supplementing funding for the programs. Barrios told The Bee in August that the funding gap had been increasing and the district would contribute $2.3 million in 2018-19. The growing costs were due to salary increases and employee benefits, according to district officials.
But a deep hole opened in the district’s budget in recent years. An independent audit late last year said the district will run out of cash in November, and it has until June 30 to come up with a plan to remain solvent and avoid a takeover by the state. As they hunt for cuts, district officials have already approved a motion to lay off employees.
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On June 30, many of the classrooms and programs that serve almost 1,900 children in Sacramento City Unified will be eliminated. More than 800 children will lose slots in their program and attend programs at different sites.
“There won’t be one family that won’t get to go to preschool next year,” said Director of Child Development Jacquie Bonini. “It is our utmost goal to make sure those families in our community are served.”
The district is partnering with SETA and the department of education to guarantee that the transition to new preschools will happen smoothly, Bonini said. Families will have an option to choose other sites within the district or sites serviced by SETA.
“Those services are not going away, they just might not be serviced by Sac City,” she said.
Flores said that one 15-year-old mom used the child care program while she earned her associate’s degree. Flores said that mother got a job with Sacramento City Unified’s early childhood education program – only to be laid off.
“For the district to take away our program in its entirely – it’s really a blow to us.” Zamora said of the in-home services effort. “We are the first line of defense. We get into family homes, we deal with crises and find out what children need. We are a benefit, not a burden.”
The district provides free and paid programs for parents of infants to preschool age. The programs are four to five days a week and run from three hours to a full 10-hour day. They include the Early Head Start Program for children under age 3, Head Start for preschoolers, full-day programs for up to 10 hours, and part-day programs for up to 6 1/2 hours.
Jade Anna Hughes has two children in the preschool program at Washington Elementary School. Her 5-year-old will be attending kindergarten next year, and she said her daughter is better prepared for next year because of her preschool experience.